Sunday, 1 December 2013

7 things to do after NaNoWriMo

Glory in your achievement: this is awesome. Reap your rewards and harvest the best of what you've done. Here are 7 lovely, useful, rewarding things to do now that you've finished NaNoWriMo.

1. Celebrate!

Rejoice in your achievement and the sheer amount of writing, discipline, and dedication you've shown. We often promise ourselves rewards and celebration, and then don't carry through. We turn all adult about it, because everything else has piled up and needs time and attention, but our creative selves are like toddlers and that toddler needs you to follow through. You promised it stuff, so it's time to party. I find celebrating all on my own can feel flat, so I bribe close friends with food and wine to come celebrate with me and force them to listen to me read my favourite parts aloud. Toast your success!

2. Let both of you rest

Give yourself a rest too, a week or two of lots of sleep and calm, gentle doings. If you've finished your novel, let it rest for a couple of months. You can come back to it in February - or even April, if you're living in the northern hemisphere, when the world warms up with optimism again. This will give you a fresh perspective and a good amount of distance when you do come back to it, but it'll also help in another way. One of the weird magics of creative work is that stuff happens when we're not working on something. Let your novel over-winter. And let yourself soak in a warm bath and a glow of achievement.

3. Reflect

With everything you write, you learn new things. If you feel restless and not sure what to do with yourself now that you've finished, spend an hour or two in a coffee shop with your notebook, jotting down your discoveries. What have you learnt about writing and shaping novels? What have you learnt about your own writing practice - what works best for you and what helps you write?

4. Keep writing

Letting your novel rest doesn't mean you stop writing until February or April. Do rest for a week or two and then write something new at a gentler pace. The pace you set in NaNoWriMo is extreme, designed to blast past your internal editor and leap over obstacles, to discover that you can. Few professional writers write that much in a month, even when they write full-time. It's also designed to build a writing habit, though, and you do want to keep that. What's a sustainable amount of time to spend writing - one evening a week? Three a fortnight? Every other lunchtime? Keep using that. It builds a writing habit and it keeps your hand in, like artists' daily sketches. Write something (or somethings) completely different from your novel. If you want ideas, I have a growing batch of writing prompts on the blog.

5. Keep the community

Much of the joy and motivation of NaNo comes from the community - so hold onto that. Join a writers' group in your area or start one yourself, so you can share your creations and your progress. Much of writing is about being alone; this part doesn't need to be. If you're using the writers' seed packets, they have group versions for writers' groups and writing buddies to play the games together, co-creating stories. You don't have to know local writers to start a group: put up an ad in a local shop or the local online classifieds. That's how my best writers' group got started! If you have a writing buddy in a different place, email each other instalments.

6. Learn more about writing

With everything you write, you learn a swathe about writing and discover new hinterlands of things to learn. While your novel overwinters and you play around with other ideas, play around with other aspects of writing and learn more about it. Books on writing can have hugely helpful information and tips, but also be inhibiting and analytical (which is why I created the Story Elements course around games and activities): you need to process all that learning so it becomes part of your repertoire. (That's also why taking a break and working on something different can be valuable.)

7. Revisit your book

With all this in place, by February or April you should be ready to revisit the wonderful marvellous thing you've just finished writing - with new knowledge about writing, your wings spread a little further, and a regular writing habit consolidated. You'll discover some bits that don't work; you'll read parts that strike you to the heart and impress you so much that you can't quite believe you wrote that. You'll be ready to rework it, edit it, finesse it, whatever it needs, and you'll be able to see what it needs.

Congratulations. So sincerely. And I hope you're celebrating what you've achieved.


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