I loved camp when I was a kid. In my normal, everyday life, I was known as the nerdy girl who always had her hand raised in class and her nose in a book. Let’s just say I wasn’t the most popular person at my small-town school.
But every year at camp, I had the chance to meet new people. People who didn’t have any preconceived notions of who I was or what I was like. It was a fresh start and a new opportunity to meet someone who was just like me. I always seemed to make new friends and come home feeling confident and happy.
This guest post of Sarra Cannon. Cannon is the author of several series featuring young adult and college-aged characters, including the bestelling Shadow Demons Saga. Her novels often stem from her own experiences growing up in the small town of Hawkinsville, Georgia, where she learned that being popular always comes at a price and relationships are rarely as simple as they seem. Sarra recently celebrated six years in indie publishing and has sold over half a million copies of her books. Connect with Sarra online at Facebook.com/SarraCannon, Instagram.
Let me tell you, if there had been a camp back then for young writers or people who loved to read, I would have signed up in a heartbeat! So when I heard about Camp NaNoWriMo a few years ago—an online retreat for writers—I knew it was the place for me.
No doubt by now you’ve heard of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) where every November hundreds of thousands of writers from around the globe get together online and vow to write 50,000 words in just 30 days. Well, Camp NaNoWriMo is like the summer camp version of that, and if you’re a writer, you absolutely need to sign up.
1. You get to hang out with your tribe. ..Cabin.
I don’t have to tell you that writing can be a lonely endeavor. We spend hours in front of our computer screens, inside our own heads, alone in our apartments, or sitting at a cafe with headphones on, trying to make these scenes come to life the way we see them in our brains. Often, the non-writerly people in our lives don’t understand what we’re going through, and if we were to ask them over dinner whether it’s cooler for a zombie apocalypse to start because of a secret government experiment or an evil sorceress, they’d look at us like we were crazy.
It’s important to find a tribe of writers you can turn to when you need some feedback or when you simply need to know you aren’t the only one who’s been staring at a blank screen for the past two hours. In Camp NaNoWriMo, writers are sorted into virtual cabins that act like private chat rooms where you can celebrate each other’s wins, share your fears, and bounce ideas back and forth for an entire month. Create an online cabin with twenty of your closest friends or meet new ones by getting automatically sorted into a random cabin. Either way, you won’t be alone, and that is reason enough to participate.
2. You could use the motivation and support.
We all could, right? It doesn’t matter if you’re lucky enough to be writing full time or if you’re squeezing half an hour of writing in between a full-time job and raising three kids. All writers could use a kick in the pants every once in a while.
Camp NaNoWriMo could be that kick for you. There’s nothing like a deadline and a cabin full of people cheering you on to make you finally open up that document and get back to work. Plus, once you join, you’ll get insider access to all of these amazing pep talks from veteran writers. This could be the extra jolt of motivation you’ve been looking for all year.
3. You get to set your own goal.
If you’re familiar with the Big Event in November—NaNoWriMo—you know that it involves the major goal of writing a 50,000 word novel in just 30 days. It’s an exciting and worthy goal, but you have to hit that 50k in order to win. Camp NaNoWriMo, on the other hand, is a more custom experience. If you really want to finish that short story you were working on, set your goal at only 8,000 words. Or challenge yourself to write 100,000 words. If word count doesn’t work for you, Camp lets you set your goal in hours, minutes, pages, or even lines.
Want to make a habit of writing 10 minutes every day? Set your camp goal at 310 minutes. Still trying to find the time to actually edit the book you wrote last November? Set your camp goal at 200 pages of revisions. It’s completely up to you what you want your goal to be. Challenge yourself or make it easy. Work on edits or write something new. Write three different stories or a series of blog posts. It’s completely up to you in Camp NaNoWriMo.
4. Your participation builds momentum.
One of the things I’ve learned after almost seven years of writing professionally is that momentum is the key to success. The more I write, the more I want to write. It’s as simple as that. Taking breaks to avoid burnout is necessary, but I always find that starting up again after an extended break is like waking up to find your car is covered in three inches of snow. It takes time to dig it out and warm it up again.
Whether you’re currently in a groove and looking to keep it going, or you’re coming back to writing or edits after an extended break, the accountability and community of Camp NaNoWriMo will help you build some momentum. Who knows where you might be able to take it from there?
5. You can’t afford not to.
How long have you been talking about wanting to write this book? How long have you wanted to edit your work and finally put it out there for other people to read? I’m willing to bet this is something you’ve been wanting to do for a long time. Something you’ve been putting off because you’re too busy or too afraid. Finding the willpower and motivation to do something creative on your own is not easy. Sometimes, it’s downright terrifying.
This is your chance. Let go of the fear that’s been holding you back for far too long. No more excuses. The actual writing part is something you have to do on your own, but you are absolutely not alone. We’re all in this together, so grab your bathing suit and flip-flops, strap your canoe to the top of the ‘ol station wagon, whatever it takes to get you to Camp NaNoWriMo this July. You can sign up now at CampNanowrimo.org. I hope to see you there.
I’ll be the nerdy girl with the blue glasses sitting on the dock with her nose in a book.
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Brian A. Klems is the editor of this blog, online editor of Writer’s Digest and author of the popular gift book Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.