The Midway Point: A Camp NaNo Update

Writing was a struggle last week. I have a long and woeful history with Camp NaNo, which is sort of funny when you consider my intense devotion to November’s NaNoWriMo. Before National Novel Writing Month, I never finished anything because I’d spend hours searching for exactly the right word or researching something for a single throwaway line of dialogue. If I got stuck, I’d go back over what I’d already written and make line edits even though I’d probably cut half those lines later when I made sweeping revisions.

Then I tried NaNoWriMo once, and I was a changed writer. And ever since, I have preached the Good News of Literary Abandon far and wide.

Somehow, Camp NaNo has never affected me the same way. I think it’s partly the fact that it’s a more relaxed version of NaNoWriMo; participants can set their own goals, so the stakes feel lower. Less exciting. Or maybe it’s the fact that I just did this in November, and once a year is really enough.

But it’s probably mostly because of my grandpa.

I first tried Camp NaNo back in July 2013. A week into the month, my grandpa was hospitalized. On July 11, he died.

So, you know. That kind of destroyed the whole month for me.

I was late to work every day for weeks, because I couldn’t keep track of my schedule. I ate because I knew I had to, but I wasn’t hungry. I had many, many breakdowns.

I quit Camp NaNo and didn’t write again for months.

Since then, I’ve tried Camp NaNo a couple times, but it’s never gotten off the ground. I get Sad™ the second week of July. Actually, I get Sad™ starting in April and slowly spiral downwards until I hit a low point in the second week of July, so that’s fun. It also means that the April session of Camp NaNo is just about as infeasible as the July session, even if I weren’t on a school schedule and worrying about exams and standardized tests and choosing honors students and and and.

The dumb thing is that my grandpa was a writer, too, and always wanted to read anything I’d written. So, like, he’d want me to write. But I get depressed about his death all over again every year and can’t write at all.

Anyway, this year I wasn’t even planning on doing Camp NaNo, but I started on Draft 3 of the Chosen Grandma story in early June and had gotten almost nowhere with it by the time July rolled around. At that point I’d been away from the story for six months as I finished up my undergraduate degree, so it sort of felt like I’d forgotten how to write things that weren’t essays? I had revision plans in place, but actually revising was like pulling teeth.

Enter my friend Arianna, who’s revising her queer circus fairy tale in the wake of an offer of representation by a literary agent.

“You should do Camp NaNo,” she said. “We obviously both need more motivation than we currently have.”

I certainly couldn’t argue with that. And actually doing Camp NaNo alongside an irl friend who is also doing it does boost the Camp NaNo motivation up from what it’s been in the past.

I made pretty good progress for the first week. Or at least more progress than I made in June, although it would’ve been hard not to make more progress than that.

Then we hit last Sunday, the Entry Point into the Dreaded Second Week of July, and writing came to a standstill for a couple days. I napped. I tried to convince myself to eat more than I was eating and failed. I took long drives to nowhere because it felt like if I stopped moving I would die, like a mako shark or a great white or a whale shark.

But gas is expensive, and people need food to live, and naps just mess with my ability to go to sleep at bedtime. And the story, despite being awfully full of angst for a story I keep claiming is humorous, really is pretty funny. And I know Grandpa would want me to write.

While the Camp NaNo site says my goal is 50,000 words for the month, my goal is really to have 50,000 words total in Draft 3 by the end of the month. Here at the midway point, after most of a week spent stalling, I’m at a healthy 23,000 words. While there’s a little catching-up to do, I’m more on track than I expected to be at this point.

I mean, I still have major rewrites coming up, whereas most of what I’ve done so far is small changes that nonetheless have ripple effects every time I make one. So I’m sure writing entire new scenes could go a lot slower than revising has gone so far.

But I feel pretty good. I’m planning to have Draft 3 done by the end of August, when grad school starts up, and I’ve already got two fresh pairs of eyes signed up to read when I’m ready. All in all, this is by far the best Camp NaNo I’ve ever had.

I think I might actually finish this year.

2 thoughts on “The Midway Point: A Camp NaNo Update

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s