NaNoWriMo · Writing Advice

Camp NaNo for First Timers

We’ve spoken about NaNoWriMo in depth in the past, and briefly mentioned Camp NaNo, particularly when discussing how to find a writing buddy but today we’d like to dedicate an article to Camp NaNoWriMo.

Unlike National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which only occurs in November, Camp NaNo comes round twice a year. First in April and then again in July.

There are so many differences between Camp Nano and NaNoWriMo. When deciding which to participate in, it might be worth looking at those differences, but all in all NaNoWriMo is a far more intense experience, a challenge to pressure you; whereas Camp NaNo is a virtual writers’ retreat, a place to escape to.

NaNoWriMo is an event that happens in November every year. Writers must pick a brand new novel that they haven’t previously worked on, update their daily word count and aim for a target of 50,000 words in one month.

For Camp NaNo, there is a lot more flexibility. The works can be previously started. They don’t have to be novels, in fact they could be any form of writing, including scripts, poetry and comics. Instead of aiming for the hefty target of 50,000 words, instead contestants can pick their own target between 30 and 1,000,000 words.

But perhaps the biggest difference between Camp and NaNoWriMo, is that in Camp NaNo participants have the option to be sorted into virtual cabins. Giving the writing retreat feel you can select for cabin allocation  and be placed in a virtual writing community of 12 campers. While you can choose to opt out, particularly if you prefer to write alone, being part of a cabin is a huge part of the Camp NaNo experience. If you choose not to opt out, you can either be sorted into a public cabin or you can create your own private cabin.

When being sorted in a public cabin, you will be allocated into a group with 11 other writers. This will occur near the end of the month so that you have a chance to speak to and get to know your cabin before the month begins. These allocations will be random but you can choose to be sorted into a cabin with writers of a similar interest, by picking those writing in your genre, within your age group or with a similar word goal. This can be a very rewarding experience, however there are a lot of flaws with this system. My biggest problem when I used this (I have participated in Camp NaNo twice, and on my first two experience I was sorted randomly into a cabin) was time zones. My first experience was disappointing, while all allocated into a cabin, the rest of the members were not very active and this meant that there was no actual cabin experience. The second time was better, but unfortunately being from the UK it meant that I was in a different time zone from the rest of my mostly American cabin. They would leave a message and I’d reply 12 hours later. While it was nice to have some writing discussion, it didn’t compare to my third NaNo when I joined a private cabin.

Private cabins give you the option to select your own cabin mates, and while you can make one with just you and your friends, if you want to meet other writers the best option is to flock to the NaNoWriMo forums. NaNoWriMo have a forum specifically dedicated to helping writers find a cabin for Camp. In the forums you can specify to have/ find groups with cabins of a similar age range, within the same time zone (a very important factor for me) and writing something similar to you. In my opinion, it vastly improves the Camp NaNo experience. While not daily anymore, 8 months later, I still speak to my Cabin from July 2015.

One of the flaws with the Cabin system is that it can be quite limited. There is a character limit on messages so one piece of advice is if you find a solid cabin it might be worthwhile to move to Skype. This has helped me keep in contact with my Cabin after Camp ended and we also used Google Docs to share our stories with each other.

When compared to NaNoWriMo, Camp NaNo is a truly unique experience. It has been a fantastic experience for me and helped me get to know other writers and I don’t doubt that I will participate again in April. With it’s more laid-back approach than NaNoWriMo, Camp NaNo might be an option for those writers who want a more relaxed approach.

– Nadia


3 thoughts on “Camp NaNo for First Timers

  1. That’s a good idea to swap stories once it’s over. I never end up staying in contact with my cabin mates. No one usually talks in my cabin, lol. Though this year the people I’m with are very chatty. So we’ll see. 🙂 Good luck!


    1. We started sharing stories during Camp and it was a really good way to get a critique. It can be very hit or miss whether you get a talkative cabin or not but I’m hoping for a good one this year 🙂 I hope you have good luck with yours and good luck with Camp!

      Liked by 1 person

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