Vincent Watkins Presents:

The Camel

A Collaborative Writing Format

Section 1: The Official Rules of the Camel:


On an author’s turn, that author may choose to write or edit. One cannot do both in a single turn.

When writing, the author may add up to 500 words to the end of the work. They cannot be added in any other location. At least 1 word must be added to constitute a turn.

When editing, the author may edit up to 100 words. Editing includes replacement, deletion, and (counter-intuitively) addition of words. Thus, when editing, an author can insert new text into any part of the work; however, the author is limited by a lower word allowance than when “writing.” At least 1 word must be edited to constitute a turn.

The work has a maximum word limit of 5000. No turn may end unless the work has 5000 or fewer words.


After each turn, the author to take the next turn is determined by any fair, random method that gives each author an equal chance of being chosen. Dice, random number generators, and the like, are all fair game. The method, and the random determination, are the responsibility of the author who has just completed a turn.

It is permissible that the same author be granted multiple turns consecutively.

The first author may be determined by any agreed random process, or elected unanimously.


After completing a turn, but before determining the next turn, an author may choose to quit. In such a case, the author is removed from random selection, but the project otherwise proceeds apace. The author who is quitting is still responsible for determining the author of the next turn.

When only two authors remain, and one of those authors quits, the other shall take one final turn. The work is then complete.

Section 2: Recommended Practices

Writing the Camel via a shared Google document produces the following useful features:

  1. Easily maintain the Camel in a single document: Forwarding word documents or RTFs back and forth will quickly produce a very large number of documents, which can generate confusion.
  2. Revision history, identifying each stage of the process as well as which changes have been made.

Section 3: The Camel Lexicon

The productive writing stretches are referred to as the Humps, while the periods during which progress has stalled out are referred to as Slumps. It is common to see members encouraging those who are taking a good period of time to complete a turn "Less Slump, more Hump!" or variations thereof.

The majority of the stages of completing a Camel alternate between Humps and Slumps, but when the remaining participants feel the story is more or less complete, and begin to focus on polishing the work, they have entered the stage known as the Rump.

As noted above, participants can quit at any time. The first participant to depart from the Camel is referred to as the Grump.

Conversely, as the last remaining participant gets only one turn to tidy things up before the Camel is completed, the last remaining participant is known as the Chump.

The participant who produced the most forward progress via writing (as opposed to editing) is known as the Pump. There are multiple ways to determine which player counts as the Pump for a given Camel, including: a) ratio of writing turns to editing turns, b) sheer number of writing turns, c) total number of words added during writing turns.

The Clumps is a very bad movie.

If the completed work comes in at less than 1/2 the word limit, it is a Stump.

A turn used to completely undo a turn taken by another participant is a Trump.

The participant who is most concerned with monitoring and adhering to the letter of the rules is the Ump.

Section 4: Links to Completed Camels


An Excitable Boy