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After NaNoWriMo

2013 Winner TshirtSo, if everything goes to plan, in a few hours you will have written 50,000 words in the month of November. Congratulations! That is quite an accomplishment, and you should be proud, especially if this was your first NaNoWriMo. Take a moment to take a breath and appreciate all you have accomplished in such a short time.

But then take some time to consider what you have learned during NaNoWriMo, and then decide what you will do during December and beyond. Now is the perfect time to make plans for your post-NaNoWriMo writing so that when December arrives, you can keep going. And more importantly, keep improving.

First off, keep going. Finish your novel. Despite the wonderful name and marketing that surrounds NaNoWriMo, 50,000 words is not a novel. Okay, maybe technically. After all, the Hugo for Best Novel is awarded to works of fiction over 40,000 words, but I think you would be hard pressed to sell a novel of 50,000 words these days. If you are writing a genre novel—and I assume the majority of you are due to the nature of this site—you should be aiming for 80,000 to 120,000 words. So that’s the bad news.

Pens & Pencils by Unknown ArtistBut the good news is that now you should know you can get there. One more month of work, and you’ll be right in the heart of that territory: 100,000 words. Heck, December even gives you an extra day, so no sweat, right? What better way to wrap up the year by wrapping up the first draft of your novel? In other words, think of NaNoWriMo not as a challenge, but as the start of a new habit: writing every day.

The second thing I would suggest doing is a self-assessment. What did you learn about yourself while participating in NaNoWriMo? Maybe you did better because you were part of a group. If that’s the case, I’d suggest looking into online writing groups that would allow you to give and receive critiques and remain part of a community. What about your daily word counts? Were there days where you did better or worse? What happened on those days? Did you write more in a certain location, using a certain platform? Were you writing more during certain hours of the day? Or were there events and distractions that took you away from your writing? Did you feel like taking Sundays off, or did you zoom ahead on the quiet weekends? Once you analyzed that pattern, ask yourself this: Can you make changes to your life to maximize your productivity? The holidays are only going to eat up more of your time, so work smarter, not harder to keep your motivation up.

Pencils by alibubbaThird, I would suggest doing an assessment of your writing. Did you try anything new during NaNoWriMo? How did your experiments work out? Do they need to be forgotten, or only adjusted? Do you need to change the way you outlined? Should you have outlined? Did having an outline limit your creativity? Did you notice any weaknesses to your plot? Were you able to regularly ratchet up the conflict? What about your characters? Are they well developed? Do they have a unique voice and viewpoint? Do they grow and change over the course of the story? And so on.

Consider adding an extra chapter to your work in progress. Call it “Notes” or something similar. Use that place to write down the answers to the above questions. No one ever has to see this chapter, so take some time and be honest with yourself. You know your story the best, and no one knows its weaknesses like you do. Heck, if you’re anything like me, your internal editor has been shouting them at you since November 1st. Use that chapter to give him free reign. But a note of caution: I find that “editor mind” can wreck havoc with “writer mind,” so I prefer to do that after I’ve hit my daily word count. No one wants to start writing after listing the many ways they suck.

Black and White Wireless Keyboard by TheHappyCactusNot only will those notes come in handy when it is time to revise your story, they will also help you improve your next novel. And if you start seeing themes in your comments—say problems with character development or plotting—you can then focus on fixing those problems. Pick up books that teach those subjects or read authors who are known for their characters or page turning plots.

To me, the most important part of NaNoWriMo is what you do December 1st. Last year, I put down my metaphorical pen, and it was a long time before I started writing again. I don’t plan on making that same mistake this year. So together, let’s think about where we want our writing to go and how best to get there. Let’s use what we have learned during November. I know we have done a lot this month, maybe even more than some of us have ever done. But hopefully December is just the beginning of the next stage of our writing careers and not the end.

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4 Comments

  1. I was already 13,000 words into my current work in progress when the month started so I didn’t “officially” do Nanowrimo, but I’m about 1,300 words away from 50,000 words this month and I should be able to do that today (yesterday was a 3,500 word day). I’m really happy with this progress as especially since these aren’t just brain dumping but rather “finished” words 90% of which will stay in the final product. Yes I’ll need to do some copy editing, but in general my first drafts are about 90% of what is finally released.

    Here’s a big congrats to all those who participated and won, and for those that didn’t…don’t despair. It’s a busy month and there is always next year. The important thing is that you took a step and a novel is made up of a whole string of small steps.

  2. Avatar G R Matthews says:

    I had intended, this year, to churn out the required 50,000 words just as I did two years ago. However, I got 10,000 words in to Book 2 and then got bogged down in re-thinking, re-structuring and tinkering with it. So, in essence, I failed. But, I do think all the re-doing/thinking and tinkering will make it into a better book 🙂 So, in summary, I have changed from ‘pantser’ to ‘planner’ over the course of two NaNo’s and one completed novel.

  3. […] you might want to sign up for NaNoEdMo! Fantasy Faction has a helpful post-NaNoWriMo blog entry, After NaNoWriMo, that encourages you to keep […]

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