My First Camp Nanowrimo

For some years I have been aware of Camp Nanowrimo, the secondary challenge run by the wonderful team at Nanowrimo. A little different to the core Nanowrimo – which is simply to write 50,000 words in 30 days – Camp Nanowrimo allows you to set your own goal.

You can set a goal based on words, hours, lines or pages. This is fantastic if you’re writing something other than a novel; it’s even possible to take part if you’re doing something other than writing. Comic book writers and artists, for example, could assign themselves pages of the comic they’re working on.

This year I decided to take part for the first time, having taken part in Nanowrimo for the past decade – yes, this year will be my 10th year taking part in Nanowrimo. I feel very old now. So, having had a lot of practice at 50k words in 30 days, I decided to take the opportunity to do something different.

As you may be aware, I play and run live-action roleplaying games (LRP or LARPs) as my primary hobby. At the end of next month, I am running a four day long event over the Bank Holiday weekend. It seemed logical to make this the project I worked on throughout April – since I was going to need to work on it this month anyway.

Writing a LRP event is a lot of fun, especially in a historical setting where you get to study history at the same time and work out how you want to mess with it. Different LRP games work differently, but the ones I run operate on one team of players, one team of crew or “monsters”.

The players have their own characters which they have created and play for the weekend – the crew play whatever the plot dictates. The people who are in the places the party go to, whether they be friend or foe.

So when I say writing an event, what I mean is effectively writing those instructions for the crew, telling them what is there. It’s like a script, but not in the way you’d imagine. Instead of lines, it has the background of a place, details of what is there, personalities and knowledge of the people present.

To do this we first have to create the layers of overall plot, creating both a self-contained story and linking it into other events and the wider world. It involves a lot of research; probably a solid half of my hours were spent trawling Wikipedia, English heritage websites and more.

All of this combined means that writing an event doesn’t really lend itself to a wordcount. So instead, I picked an hour based target. My original intention was to pick 25 hours – that’s one hour per weekday in April. But as it turns out, there’s a minimum hour target of 30 hours, so this was what I ended up with. I didn’t expect to make it.

My start wasn’t an auspicious one. The 1st April fell on a weekend, so I did nothing that day. I managed one hour on the 4th April, then nothing at all until the 9th April. Over the following few days I clawed back a couple of hours. I started to regret the decision to take part.

I was struggling to come up with ideas, I found myself having little interest in doing the research – it was generally pretty rubbish. This project I had been so excited about suddenly seemed like it was going to be a giant, awful slog.

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But then on the 14th – almost halfway through the month – my co-writer (who happens to be my best friend) and I had a plot meeting. Now here’s the first fantastic thing about that: I got to count that as working on the project. Suddenly, I had added five hours to my count.

More importantly, I was also reinvigorated about the project. This wasn’t our first plot meeting by any means, but it was the one where we fully ironed out what was happening where in the core plot, and who everyone was, and how everything would work. I came away from it keen and full of ideas.

And over the next week, I didn’t just manage to do one hour a day – I sometimes did two hours. One day I did three hours. I saw my hour count go up and up, and found that my original goal of 25 hours was closing in. On the 25th, I didn’t just hit it – I passed it. I made it to 26 hours. The day after I hit 27.

It is now the 30th April, the final day of Camp Nanowrimo, and I’m still at 27 hours. But that’s okay – because I’ve got the whole rest of the day. And you know, I’m pretty confident I can manage those final three hours.

With the original Nanowrimo, I’ve always had generally steady progress. Maybe falling behind a few days here and there, but not insurmountable amounts. I always thought that if you fell behind by two weeks, as I did this month, you were basically done.

Well, it turns out that isn’t the case.

So it is difficult to call this Camp Nanowrimo experiment anything other than a resounding success. Not only have I hit my original goal, I am going to hit the minimum goal for the contest. Not only that, but I’ve actually written about 80% of the project in total. With four weeks to go until the event, that’s a pretty solid place to be in.

And I didn’t even experience half of the things Camp Nanowrimo has to offer. You can write in cabins, effectively teams – these looked interesting, but I never found anyone else I knew who was taking part. I did this very much in isolation in general, not engaging a great deal with the Camp Nanowrimo community. These are things I’m definitely going to try next year.

Because I’m definitely going back for a second round.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to do those last three hours of work…

If you’re interested in Camp Nanowrimo or Nanowrimo in general, check them out! You can find my previous posts about Nanowrimo here.