National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is an event that takes place each November, where writers from all over the world are challenged to write a fifty-thousand word novel in a single month. This year, over 312,000 people participated.
I was one of those 312,000. I was actually pretty impressed with myself. I hit day six this year, was significantly ahead of my goal, thought I was doing awesome. Then some personal stuff came up… my novel is still languishing exactly where it was at day six.
For those who finished, January and February are NaNoWriMo’s “Now What?” months. People have finished their novels, but that’s only the first step. There’s more yet to come.
Part One: Writing is Fun!
Congratulations! You’ve finished your NaNo novel. Maybe you were done back in November. Maybe it took you a couple extra days. Maybe you just finished. Or maybe you’re not actually done yet, and you’re reading this when you should be writing.
Regardless, you’ve finished.
(Except for the last group. Get back to work!)
Now that they’re gone…
NaNoWriMo calls January and February their “Now What?” months. But really, that applies at any time. Writing is fun. I spend hours working on stories that will never see the light of day, just for the fun of writing. It’s hard, sure. It can be a struggle; it takes discipline; it takes an enormous amount of time to actually finish a story. But it’s fun. You get to see your story come to life and you have actual words scrawled out on the page (or your computer screen. Then they’re glowing!)
But you’ve written your story, whether it’s 35,000 words or 350,000.
So now what?
The easy answer is “Write something else.” Some people would say, “Now you get to try to submit it to agents. Good luck.” Your friends might say “Aren’t you glad that’s over?”
What happens now may take even more discipline than writing every day to get the story out.
Take a break.
Take a week off.
Don’t write something else, avoid watching shows or movies that are similar to your book, and, whatever you do, don’t reread your novel itself.
This includes social media too. Write up one of those long posts about how you’re all worn out from writing and can’t take Facebook anymore if you have to, then get off it for a week. Write as little as you possibly can.
If you must read, find something as different as you can. Something you normally wouldn’t read. Go from your sword and sorcery to Sherlock Holmes or from your epic retelling of the Battle of Waterloo to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
But seriously, take a break.
This will take discipline. Because you’re breaking a habit. You’ve been writing so much that you should be doing it almost instinctively. And that has to stop. For an entire week.
You need to get out of the story for a while. You’ve lived and breathed this story for a month, at least. Probably longer than that, while it was straining to get out onto the page. If you dive right back into it, you’ll burn out. You won’t remember what you were thinking when you wrote the passage. You’ll decide that you really don’t need to introduce “that stupid guy nobody likes anyway” (aka “the protagonist.”)
Or worse, you’ll still be absorbed in the story. You’ll skip over plot holes because you remember what’s supposed to be there. You’ll miss typos, skip scenes, all sorts of things that need to be changed.
So, take a break. That’s “what now.”
Writing is fun, but there’s a long road ahead. You’ll need to be rested up for it.