by Josephine-Anne Griffiths
Gone are the days when I didn’t even know what NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) meant. Last November I decided for the first time to take part in the big one. Yes, you got it 50,000 words, one month and me.
It was an awful lot of words, especially as I had never attempted anything that massive before.
50,000 words – what was I thinking? 1,667 words needed to be written on average per day, to stay on target. Well, that lasted a good couple of days. November 2014 came to a close and I had created 20,000 beautiful words – actually truth be told, I had in fact written a jumbled mess of heart-wrenching emotions, which just happened to add up to 20,000 words. Hmmm, so why would I go ahead and do it all over again?
I think the thing that got to me the most during November was the loneliness. “No man is an island,” they say – and how true that is. Yes, writing is an extremely lonely existence, but why would one choose to work alone when you had the option to be part of a team? Having signed up at the last minute as my impulsive self usually does, I didn’t really understand how it all worked. My attitude was a fervent, I don’t have time to have buddies; I must write, write, write!
Sometime in June this year I noticed that there was a Camp NaNoWriMo. Once again it would be for a month’s duration, however, this time you were free to set your own word count goal. No matter how large or small, you would be in control. Yippee! I also noticed that members of Christian Writers’ Downunder were joining up and forming a virtual cabin. Well, cabins could hold just twelve campers, eagerly itching to write their story, poem or draft novel. I procrastinated like you just wouldn’t believe, not due to the anticipated pressure of having to write each day. No, I pretty much had that under control; even if I only write 200 words, I do write something every day. No, the problem is that I do have a reputation for biting off much more than I can chew when it comes down to just about anything. The word impulsive comes to mind once again. Anyway, after much dithering the cabin was completely full, but upon the suggestion of the cabin’s ‘Den Mother’ Jeanette O’Hagan, I opened a second cabin and consequently became its ‘Den Mother’ …. ‘Mummy Bear’ or whatever takes your fancy.
Oh dear Jo’Anne, now what have you got yourself into?
June 30th arrived and we had two cabins ready and rearing to go. Cabin 1 was christened “S’mores, Snores and Word Scores” and after some discussion, my cabin was named “Pensive Plotters and Pantsers Fuelled on chocolate”. With twelve campers in cabin 1 and eight in cabin 2, one of our campers, Naomi suggested forming a Facebook group to enable better communication between the two cabins, and of course double the fun and virtual mischief. So viola! “S’mores, Snores and Word Scores for Pensive Plotters and Panters” was born; and as Brian Maunder said “lol… I love the name of this little group … A more original name there ne’er was.”
Twenty Christian writers snuggled into our virtual cabins for the thirty-one days of July. Each cabin load set their space up with equally appealing home comforts. Well, I am certain the S’mores, Snores and Word Scores would have made themselves at home; as us Pensive Plotters and Pantsers had all the comforts a serious writer could possibly want. Our list wasn’t too long but did include indoor fires, cosy quilts, numerous soft cushions and bean bags, an endless supply of Tim Tams, chocolate coated shortbread, macaroons, chocolate, marshmallows etc., not to mention bottomless cups of coffee, tea and hot chocolate.
During the evenings the camp fire was stoked and roaring. With Brian plucking and strumming on his guitar, I managed to sing a couple of songs, with our fellow campers wishing that I wouldn’t. Most nights after the campfire had done its best, we would retreat to our own cabins to curl up in front of the indoor fires which were awaiting us. Tim Tam runs were made between cabins, as well as chocolate and marshmallows depending upon who had treats to spare. All kinds of shenanigans erupted until the wee small hours of most mornings; it really is a wonder that so many words were written. Amazing isn’t it, just how much fun can be had in a virtual cabin with like-minded people.
Of course, it wasn’t all play and no work. Twenty passionate writers wrote just over 470,000 words during July. What an achievement! Most campers either achieved or exceeded their word count goals, with those who didn’t, coming close. There were difficult circumstances for many, writing around family, full-time jobs, sickness, unexpected emotions, writer’s block etc. I think the most daunting moment for me personally, was when the flash drive that my work was carefully saved upon was misplaced. It was eventually found at the bottom of a large and well-stuffed handbag. What a relief – around nine and a half thousand, precious words were at stake.
More so than word count and goals, the most valuable thing that I will take from this whole experience is the camaraderie, strengthening of confidence, and the sheer joy of achievement. I am sure each and every one of the campers would feel the same. Three of our campers, Naomi, Mary and Cate, who live near each other managed to have a couple of writers’ get-togethers. I heard that they had an awesome time, talking, writing, making new friendships etc. I won’t steal their thunder, as I am sure they will have much to tell about their experience.
NaNoWriMo July Camp, 2015 was a blast, and yes, I would do it all again.
S’mores, Snores and Word Scores – Jeanette O’Hagan (Den Mother), Nola Passmore, Adele Jones, Jo Wanmer, David, Charis Joy Jackson, Christina Aitken, Adam Collings, Cathie Sercombe, Sue Jeffrey, Kirsten Hart and T Pariss.
Pensive Plotter and Pantsers, Fuelled on Chocolate – Cate McKeown, Naomi Edwards, Iola Goulton, Brian Maunder, Jacqueline Tasik, Melissa Khalinsky, Mary Jones and Josephine-Anne Griffiths (aka Mummy Bear).
Please do comment and add your experiences to our story.
What do you think? Fun or not? Maybe some more keen writers will join in next year – we might even need a third cabin!
Previously published on Just Jo’Anne on August 6th, 2015