Monday, September 19, 2022

The Challenges of a Virtual NaNoWriMo

I've already talked a little bit about how covid impacted workers in 2020.  I didn't work in an office, so it didn't really change anything for me there, but I experienced many of the same (but different) challenges in November of 2020 as an ML for NaNoWriMo.

We knew earlier in the year that HQ was mandating virtual only for NaNoWriMo.  Even though most places were opening up, NaNoWriMo didn't want any of their events to be responsible for people getting sick and potentially dying, so we weren't allowed to plan, promote, or even approve any in-person events.

This was a challenge for our region, which is typically a busy and well-attended region at local, in-person events.  We had a pretty good social media presence already, though, so we built off of that.  We offered virtual write-ins at the same times as many of our common, popular in-person write-ins, using a variety of platforms.  Some write-ins were on Zoom, some were on Facebook video chat, some were in Discord.  We also held a virtual kickoff party on Zoom.

Participation dropped, of course, which we expected, but not too badly.  We still had anywhere from four to ten people at most of the write-ins.  We didn't do as many write-ins, just a few a week instead of the one or more a day we were used to - which was actually to be expected, since we were planning and hosting all of the write-ins, rather than wrimos planning some of them as happens with in-person write-ins.

Last year ended up being virtual as well, and we noticed more of a drop-off in participation last year.  The feeling was that most of our local participants had the stamina to make it through one year of virtual, but not two.  There were many write-ins that weren't attended at all. 

We get it.  Some people really like the virtual format, and we've had Discord write-ins for years.  But others struggle.  For a lot of wrimos, the social aspect of in-person write-ins is what sustains motivation and momentum for the entire month of November, and virtual events just aren't the same.

Don't get me wrong, I think some people love the virtual write-ins and will still attend them.  I just think we'll do better with a combination of virtual and in-person.

This year will be our first in-person NaNoWriMo following covid.  HQ wants us to continue to offer a virtual component too, so we're planning on still doing a few virtual write-ins.  But we're excited to be able to offer in-person events again, as we feel like that's the life and blood of a successful NaNoWriMo.

Will participation still be down a little, even in our busy region?  HQ expects it to be, although I won't be surprised if we get a surge of participation at first from wrimos who have been anxiously awaiting the return of in-person events.  We'll have to wait and see how the forum and social media participation ramps up closer to November.  It's only September, after all, and not everyone is thinking about NaNoWriMo yet!

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