If you’re like thousands of writers around the world, November is a very special month: National Novel Writing Month. But it only lasts 30 days.
Fifty-thousand or more words, many late nights and lots of groaning on Twitter later, we hold in our hands the fruit of our labors: a 200-some page manuscript that needs a lot of work.
Before we know it, life is back to normal.
The approach of December is always strange for me, as the 30-day flurry of #NaNoWriMo melts back into every day routines. For one thing, I come off an adrenaline rush that leaves me exhausted. For another, I look about me and realize just how much of the “rest” of life I unwittingly put aside to get those words written.
Above all, I find myself wondering, “Okay, so that was fun. Now what?”
#NaNoWriMo used to be my big time every year to get my words down and write something lengthy. But this year, I’ve knuckled down to take all of my writing much more seriously. I no longer have the “excuse” that goes, “Well, now I can rest from my labors.”
Because #NaNoWriMo isn’t the end of the work, it’s just the beginning. That book needs to be revised. It also needs to be added into my production and distribution cues.
So how can we channel that #NaNo spirit into the other eleven months of the year, when we’re not under deadlines or haven’t promised that we’ll update our word counts on social media? How can we make December through October just as productive as November?
Here are few to-do’s I’ve worked out for myself.
I hope you find them useful, too.
To-Do #1: Remain vocal about word counts.
I don’t want to bore my friends on social media. But honestly, there is nothing like the positive peer pressure that arises when I *said* I was going to do something. This phenomenon, like nothing else, actually makes me get stuff done. So this year, I plan to periodically update my progress about reaching my goals—both the positive and the not-so-positive. At the very least I hope to inspire someone else to tackle their goals, too. And that is worth all the pain.
To-Do #2: Stick to the revision plan.
Every year I have the best of intentions to revise my novel, and somehow it just gets lost in the scramble. If I had revised League of Marvelosities when I said I would, it might not have taken so long to finally release! I’ve already gathered the books I know I need to research the details I played fast-and-loose with just to get the story written down. Tomorrow, December 1st, I begin listening to some of them as audiobooks while I sew League illustrations. No excuses. No regrets.
To-Do #3: Take a break.
This one I confess I’m not so happy about, but I know it’s necessary. My coach Victoria made me promise I would take two weeks off of making and business in the latter half of December. “2016 is going to be a big year for you,” she told me. “You need to be rested and ready.” And she is right. I know that. I’ll enjoy the reading and visiting some museums, as well as taking in holiday activities. Rest is a part of prepping for creativity. I’ve just got to remember that.
To-Do #4: Print the draft.
It’s sometimes easy for me to check “Win #NaNoWriMo” off my list and move on as if nothing had happened. Printing a physical copy of the novel draft I just wrote has a two-fold effect. First, it prepares a copy for when I sit down to read through it when revision time comes. And second, it forces me to really see and feel what 50,000 (or more) words is in a tangible way. The physical copy is much more impressive than what is inside of it (yet). I need that moment of pride and acknowledgement as a way to keep going.
To-Do #5: Plan better for next year.
This was my first year as a self-employed #NaNoWriMo participant. It was also the first year that Teslacon, an annual steampunk convention I attend, was held later in November rather than earlier. These new factors radically affected my #NaNoWriMo progress. I “blacked out” for a whole week around the middle of the month. Only word sprints before I left, and word sprints after, enabled me to finish on the 28th of the month. Next year I’m blocking off all of November for #NaNoWriMo, and I’ll know better how to be prepared for the demands on my time.
Those are my five to-do’s in response to the end of #NaNoWriMo. What are yours? I’d love to hear your additions to this list in the comments below.