I spent June in a state of self-induced torment called Camp NaNoWriMo, a summertime version of National Novel Writing Month. The goal is simple: Write a novel of at least 50,000 words, and do it within the span of 30 days. I've completed four of these months since November, 2009 - two November sessions and two Camp sessions - and I have loved and hated each one. The idea behind the summer camp version is that November is too busy for a lot of us, and that we'll have more time to crank out all those words in June or August. Yeah, maybe.
I've been doing the blog thing, writing mostly about hoboes, for a while now, and switching gears from short-form to long is a challenge. In blogging, efficient writing is important, and I try to use an economy of words. That's actually a good practice in most writing. These NaNoWriMo exercises basically demand wordiness. To add to the challenge for this one, I abandoned the zombie apocalypse of my last two novels and instead started from scratch. I love my undead friends, and I'll revisit those projects soon, but zombies are easy. I wanted to stretch myself a bit. I also kept a camp journal, because as these marathons drag on, I tend to forget who and where I am and what's going on.
I didn't really keep a camp journal. Are you kidding? 50,000 words in 30 days. That's almost 1,700 words a day - with a full-time job. But if I had kept one, it might have had excerpts like these:
June 1st - Only managed 917 words. Someone brought rum to camp!
June 2nd - Hard to write when Stephen Strasburg was pitching for the Nats and it was on TV in the counselors' cabin, but after the inevitable victory, I was on fire. I have 4,132 words and a headache. There are people in my book. So far, they haven't done much of anything - except of course for Brock Swackhammer, who is a man of action.
June 3rd - Maybe rum at camp is a good thing. Over 8,100 words, and Swack's already behaving badly. There's also been sex-quality coffee, and apparently everyone in my book is a smart-ass. I know! How is this happening?
June 11th - Wait... You want another 1,667 words today? I just gave you 1,667 words. What is this, a labor camp? And why are my characters making decisions for themselves? I did not authorize any of those shenanigans at the beach. Who's writing this thing, anyway?
June 16th - I got lost on the stupid nature hike, and had to make fajitas without a grill. My story has wandered off and is now totally bossing me around. I miss my wife. I miss my blog. I miss my hoboes.
June 19th - Didn't write. At all. Who knows what my characters are doing without my supervision. I thought I saw an albatross, this morning flying over the camp from the east. That's why I couldn't write. Everyone knows the appearance of the eastern albatross, especially within four days of the summer solstice, signals nothing but heartache for those who type drivel at any rate that falls between 30 and 40 words per minute.
June whatever 27th or something - Why is there camp on weekdays, too? It's stupid and I hate it. I'm never doing this again. And if those fictitious little buttheads make me cry in front of the other campers again, I'm deleting them. See if I don't!
June 29th - It's 102 degrees outside. You iron a lot of cars but don't say why you won't call the textbook example of rotisserie bonanza fire. My grip is fine, why are they attacking me? I'm just a bill, and I wasn't but askew will never infield fly rule. Right? RIGHT??
June 30th - Okay, seriously - what is a "derecho?" Knocking the power out on the last night of camp may seem like a cool idea - roughing it and whatnot - but it's really not. I'm one of the lucky ones, though. Many campers are dead, or worse - still have no electricity. I have over 50,000 words, but my characters simply will not shut up, so I have to keep typing during the bus ride home.
I've been home for a week, and I have a Camp NaNoWriMo T-shirt, and a badge to stick on my Facebook page, and a patch. That's the best thing about camp. You get NOTHING for succeeding. Nothing. In fact, if you wanted to, you could just copy and paste 50,000 words from any source on your computer - or anywhere on the whole wide world interwebs - and paste it into their word-count verifier and "win." You'd be a giant loser, but you could do it.
Only then you wouldn't have the one good thing they do send you home from camp with - a rough draft of a novel. I'll make myself crazy again for 30 days come November for another one. Maybe it'll be about hoboes.