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Camp NaNo: The Kinder, Gentler NaNoWriMo

April marks the first Camp NaNo of 2018. If you’ve been intimidated by National Novel Writing Month, or just had the misfortune of having a busy November, Camp NaNo is an opportunity to commit to your writing with less stress and greater control.

In addition to not being set right before holiday season, Camp NaNo allows participants to set their own goals. Writing 50,000 words in one month is a challenge even the most successful writers may skip. But the customizable goal during Camp NaNo allows you to set your own word count goal, or pledge to work on a certain number of pages or lines (welcome, poets) or even for a certain number of hours or minutes. That flexibility allows writers who are revising or who are juggling other responsibilities to also participate. It also allows you to factor in what is actually the most productive accountability for you. Does tracking words stress you out? Are you more interested in making sure you write for 30 hours over the month? Then Camp NaNo may be the NaNo for you.

Goal flexibility also means that if you are more successful when you’re ahead, you can arrange to be ahead and stay motivated. Surpassing my goal is highly motivating, so even if I think I’ll write 25K during the month, I tend to aim lower, maybe 18K, so I can feel that boost of accomplishment for hitting the initial goal early. Without the 50K pressure, I feel much more motivated to extend beyond my goal, and—if it turns out I misjudged my available time—I have a buffer to still be successful.

Camp NaNo is also a closer, more intimate environment. Instead of the massive forums and regional groups, Camp is organized around “cabins,” which are private chats with up to twelve writers. You can be assigned to a random cabin, or create a private cabin, accessible via invite. Personally, I go the private route, cultivating a cabin of positivity and productivity among like-minded friends and colleagues. We take turns asking, “Have you written yet? What are you working on?” which makes for a nice daily check-in about our writing. It’s also encouraging to see our small group combine to hit our target goals.

Because there isn’t as much outside activity around Camp NaNo as there is during NaNoWriMo—there aren’t daily tweets and blog posts about composing a novel in a month, maintaining motivation, or dealing with writing anxiety—it’s easier to forget about the event or to let check-ins slide. NaNoWriMo is a little like being in a big city, with eye-catching advertisements directing you to write, but Camp NaNo is like taking a breath in the woods and recharging creative energies. It requires a little more mindfulness to check-in daily, but it is peaceful in comparison to the chaos of November. If that sounds like the kind of thing your writing life needs, sign-ups for Camp NaNo are currently open. Camp runs in April and in July. Use your NaNoWriMo username, if you have one, or create a new account. I wish you many productive hours of writing.

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