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NaNo Winner!

May 2nd, 2013 (03:42 pm)

Camp-NaNoWriMo-2013-Winner-Campfire-Circle-BadgeHave you heard of NaNoWriMo? Pronounced nah-no-RYE-mo, it's the somewhat awkward abbreviation for National Novel Writing Month, which takes place in November each year. The idea is to start a novel manuscript the first day of the month and to write madly throughout November, with the goal of finishing the month with a 50,000-word draft of a novel manuscript (or 50,000 words of a longer novel manuscript). In normal, non-writer speak, that translates to about 175-200 double-spaced manuscript pages.

NaNo began in 1999 in the San Francisco Bay area. In recent years, more than 250,000 people participate in the challenge every year, but only a fraction of them make it to 50,000 words by the end of the month.

NaNo in November comes with certain rules. You have to work on a novel, not some other form of writing. It can't be a novel you've started writing even one day before November 1, though you are allowed to outline or write notes about your story before then. And if you don't complete 50,000 words by the end of the month, you don't win.

It also comes with a huge obstacle: It's in NOVEMBER! The guy who started this thought November would be a grand month for writing, because there's that long Thanksgiving weekend when you are off work and can devote four days to just writing. What? Clearly, this event was started by a single guy with no family obligations. To those of us who are parents, a four-day weekend means four days of having kids at home, expecting parental attention. And Thanksgiving weekend means cleaning, shopping, cooking, traveling or entertaining guests, and general hectic-ness.

Now, I'm no novice to writing novels quickly. I have on many occasions written a novel in a month; that was frequently as much time as I had before deadlines when I was writing books for Sweet Valley High. But I wasn't a parent at the time. Since then, I have tried several times to write 50,000 words in November for NaNoWriMo, but I never even came close.

So I was psyched to discover a smaller-scale, more flexible form of NaNoWriMo. It's called Camp NaNoWriMo, and it just took place in April. At Camp NaNoWriMo, the writer/campers included more than just novelists. Campers can work on books of poetry, short-story collections, graphic novels, or screenplays. Projects can be continuing ones, started before April, as long as the camper meets the word-count goal for writing actually done in April. And best of all, for me, at least, campers can set their own goals! You don't have to shoot for 50,000 words if you don't want to, as long as you aim for at least 10,000.

I saw Camp NaNoWriMo as a way to motivate myself to a new burst of writing productivity on my science fiction novel. I set my goal at just 10,000 words. It seemed pathetic, compared to the usual 50,000-word NaNo goal. But it also seemed as if it just might be doable.

And it was! Tuesday afternoon, April 30, I stopped writing to count up my words for the month. And I had hit 10,662!