What To Do In December Now NaNoWriMo Is Over
It’s done. After 30 solid days of eye-bleeding writing NaNoWriMo is over. You step into December blinking, the ordeal over and your life strangely empty. After frantically trying to spend every spare minute of the last few days of November writing, December leaves you feeling all out of sorts.
So whether you made the golden 50,000 words or not, here are some suggestions of what you should be doing now that NaNoWriMo is over.
Finish It Off
Unless you’re planning to self-publish an ebook, 50,000 words is not a novel. Most fantasy publishers are looking for a minimum of 80,000 words. As a result it can be a little frustrating that following your celebratory dance at hitting 50,000, your first thought is that you’re still 30,000 words short of a traditionally published novel.
Whether you made your target, missed it or exceeded it, it’s probable that you haven’t properly finished the book. You might have the entire plot already written but there’s a good chance you might have rushed the end in order to get the book done by the deadline of the end of November. Even if you didn’t, it’s quite possible that some chapters are complete nonsense born from a decision half way through to make one major plot or character change.
So if your legal secretary, Susan, became ex-con Peter, or your sci-fi space opera morphed into an epic fantasy, December is a great chance to finish the job. You’re not looking for perfect prose. Indeed, you’re still very much looking at a first draft that will alter and change further as you revise. But for now, getting your first draft finished so that the major inconsistencies are ironed out while they are still fresh in your head is a good move.
Or maybe you could revisit those final chapters and write them as you originally intended, not sacrificing detail and tension for meeting your deadline. With a more relaxed pace you can take your time. But rest assured that the future-you who will come to edit this will thank you for the work you put in during December.
Let’s face it…you’re knackered. There are professional authors who can’t write as much as you’ve written this past month. Even Brandon Sanderson struggled to make 50,000 words during November. It’s no small feat and it’s time to reward yourself…by taking a break.
Creativity and imagination are a bit like a mana bar. The more you use them the more they need to refill. What you do to refill them will depend very much on you. It could be playing that videogame you put off to focus on NaNo, or reading another from your book pile. Or maybe even burying yourself in Netflix and catching up on movies and TV Shows. Whatever works for you. You’ve truly earned it, whether you made 50,000 words or not. December is the perfect time for taking a break to recharge, especially with Xmas parties and shopping to do that can, all too often, interrupt writing time.
Being so focused on writing your novel can make the imagined world seem more real than the actual one, so it’s good to take a break and re-engage with people. Who knows, maybe the conversations you have will make great fodder for future stories.
Forget About Your Manuscript
You had this plan. You’d write the book in November, edit it in December and then have it out to agents and publishers so it’s sitting in their inbox waiting for them when they return from holiday.
After putting so much effort into a novel you’ll find you are both excited and equally repulsed by it. It’s that urgency to get it away from your desk that leads many writers to try and rush the process and send out something that’s not quite ready. Even if you spend the entirety of December editing, the fact you’re still effectively viewing the story through the same lens as that by which you wrote it, means that you’ll probably be blind to some of the book’s errors. It’s far better, to forget about it, instead scheduling the edits for a couple of months down the line when you can look at it with fresh eyes. Faults will then jump off the page at you. There’s a tendency to think that once you’ve written a book, it needs to get out to the public as quickly as possible. In reality, a good book goes through many revisions, each of them polishing and improving the narrative.
If you’re determined to edit, then choose an old manuscript instead that you’ve not looked at in a long time. Guaranteed when you first dive back into it there will be parts that make you cringe. And when you finally get round to looking at your NaNo manuscript, you’ll think the same. But there’s nothing that can’t be fixed with an edit, and better you identify the problems and fix them than have your face too close to the proverbial trees and not see them until you get that rejection letter back.
Plan Something New
Of course, if you have nothing different to edit, you could always spend December planning something new. Challenge yourself and try and do something a little different. Whilst there’s a temptation to write all three of your epic fantasy trilogy before editing it and sending it to agents, even if it does get picked up there’s a good chance they’ll want you to rewrite sections which are likely to invalidate your sequels.
And if, as often happens, no agent or publisher ultimately shows interest in your books, it’s always good to have something different as a plan B.
So try a different genre, a different writing style, and just have fun with it. There are many authors who can tell tales of that one story they wrote – as time away from their main project or as an experiment – that ended up being their big break. It never hurts to have extra stories.
One of NaNoWriMo’s greatest strengths is it teaches the habit of writing regularly. And writing for those 30 days has taken you a long way toward fully developing the habit of writing every day. It would be a shame to see all that hard work go to waste now it has rolled into December. Of course, you don’t have to write 1,667 words each day. Even writing just 500 words will give you more than a novel’s length of prose by the end of next year. If you stop writing in December, it’ll be much more difficult to restart when you next want to write. If you’d like to ultimately one day be a professional writer, you can’t make writing something you do one month out of the year.
In summary, the hard work of November might now be behind you, but there’s still plenty you can be doing to further your writing career. It doesn’t have to be as crazy as November was, but that doesn’t mean you should just do nothing. As you can see there are plenty of activities you can be getting on with, depending on what suits you.
So make the best use of December and turn writing from a November habit into something you do all year long round.