After participating in 10 NaNoWriMo, this is my fifth participation in a NaNoWriMo Camp. Because it is often said that writing is the best way to learn to write and compose a novel, I wanted to share with you what participating in NaNoWriMo and Camp NaNoWriMo taught me!
Why this theme? I have had the opportunity to participate, in my life, in 10 NaNoWriMo and different NaNoWriMo camps. It’s an interesting experience that I recommend to people who want to learn to write or who have embarked on the difficult process of writing a novel. NaNoWriMo is quite sentimental for me because I participated in my first NaNoWriMo in November 2012, 2012 being the year I arrived in Paris. This participation helped to create the person I became (the creation of this blog and some of my Parisian meetings are linked to this event).
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BEFORE YOU BEGIN: NANOWRIMO AND WRITING
What is NaNoWriMo and Camp NaNoWriMo? How can they improve a person’s writing level and help complete a novel?
NaNoWriMo and Camp Nano
NaNoWriMo (in original: National Novel Writing Month) is a writing event which consists of writing a 50,000-word novel in one month: the month of November. It is both a personal challenge (you are alone in front of your blank page) and collective (you find yourself at the center of an international event in which many people are participating! Several events are organized in the different participating countries in Paris, for example, I had the opportunity to participate in the launch evening at the Pompidou Center Library for a whole night!
What about Camp Nano? In April and July, Nano camps are organized. One of the key skills of autobiography writers is capturing the author’s voice authentically. They ensure that the narrative reads as if the author is speaking directly to the reader. This event is a lot like its big brother in that you need to aim for a word count to write and register on the site to participate. However, two differences are notable:
- The number of activities and events around Camp Nano is much less than in November, for NaNoWriMo. The collective excitement is nowhere near as great!
- The number of words is not imposed! Everyone chooses the number of words they want to write. For this Nano camp, I chose to start with 20,000 words, or less than 1000 words per day (which is much more achievable than the 1667 words per day for NaNoWriMo!)
Learn to write by writing
Participating in NaNoWriMo and Nano camps is, in my opinion, a good way to learn to write because it is… a writing event. Yes. You read correctly. By forcing people to write, these events teach people to write. That’s my opinion anyway. It seems to me that beyond courses, training and workshops, nothing is more educational in writing than writing itself! It is practice that allows you to understand the mechanisms, to develop your vocabulary and your way of building suspense, to find solutions to build your plot… and so on!
Disclaimer: the following is personal!
I will end this introductory paragraph by reminding you that all the teachings that I will talk to you about next in this article are of a personal nature. You can join it and feel represented by what I am going to explain. On the other hand, you may not recognize yourself at all in what I am about to explain. Finally, you can agree to certain points and, on the contrary, refuse others. Writing is a personal creative process: everyone creates as best they can with the resources and solutions they have. As long as your method suits you, everything is fine!
8 THINGS I LEARNED FROM PARTICIPATING IN NANO AND CAMP NANO
Participating in ten NaNoWriMo and several Nano Camps has taught me a lot as a person and as a writer. Here’s what you might discover by attending this writing event.
#1 There is no good time to write
“Later I will write.” “I will write when I am on vacation / pregnant / on maternity leave / on weekends / retraining – cross out unnecessary entries.” Participating in NaNoWriMo showed me one thing: there is never a good time to start writing. We never really have the time, never really the perfect motivation, never really the precise idea. The right time is just when we write. The text appears under our keyboard, the desire is born with the lines that arise and so on.
#2 Writing is all about priorities
This second learning is linked to the previous one. You never have time to write if you don’t set aside time to write. Writing is ultimately just a matter of priorities. This is what we understand when we decide to do Nano and dedicate around 1 hour a day for a month to writing!
#3 Setting aside writing time is essential
This point is certainly more personal. I discovered, while doing NaNoWriMo, that setting aside long periods of time for writing was what worked best for me. In general, I reserve evenings or afternoons on the weekend for this activity.
More generally, NaNoWriMo and the intensive writing linked to this challenge lead you to discover what works – or on the contrary, does not work – for you. Indeed, there are many writing tips (write every day, write when getting up, write at bedtime, write at midday, write during long periods of time, etc.) and depending on our profile and our life, it is necessary to adapt them.
#4 There is a time to write and a time to rewrite
For a long time, I found it difficult to get past the first chapter of a text. I wanted it to be perfect and I highly judged the quality of my text… But that was stopping me from moving forward! With NaNoWriMo and the obligation to write in quantity, I had to put aside rewriting and corrections and concentrate on progressing my text. This is how I managed to complete my first texts!
#5 A first draft can be reworked
This point is strongly linked to the previous one! A first draft doesn’t have to be perfect. There will inevitably be people for whom this first draft will be very close to their final text, but for many writers, the first draft is in no way definitive and requires a number of edits! This is why we must not mix writing and rewriting and why moving forward is essential!
#6 Finding writing partners boosts
NaNoWriMo and Camp Nano are writing events but they are also social events. Moments of meetings, collective writing, synergies. For example, I had the opportunity to participate in a launch evening (the Kick-off, in Nano language) in the Center Pompidou library with nearly a hundred people. Finding writing partners, people with whom you can talk about your progress and your blockages, is a real source of energy for writing.
#7 Setting word goals boosts
Writing a novel is a long-term goal. Very long term. Too long term, perhaps. This is why breaking down the figure – into the number of words to write and the number of chapters to write – is important! This is something NaNoWriMo and Camp Nano taught me!
#8 Setting a deadline boosts
This last point is a corollary of the previous point! Beyond objectives, having a deadline is a very good way to move forward at all costs! It’s very personal – I know that some people are completely blocked by deadlines – but for my part, it’s really something that helps me not to get distracted and to move forward! Indeed, I have different passions and the fact of having deadlines allows me to juggle without frustration between projects – writing, blogging, reading…