Maybe you’re one of the tens of thousands who achieved the dream. Did your toil, anxiety, and frustration pay off with a 50,000-word manuscript that makes you beam with pride and accomplishment? If so, we offer you a heartfelt congratulations and rejoice with you. If you think you have the first draft of your novel, check out our posts about how to proceed with the editing process and get your book published.
If you fell short, that’s okay. You’re in good company—hundreds of thousands of participants are in the same boat. Life may have gotten in the way and spoiled your plans (life’s favorite pastime), or you may have just lost steam. But what did you accomplish? Did you write more than you had in months? Did you finally figure out how to fill in that plot hole that had been perplexing you? Did you develop any positive writing habits that you can build on to eventually accomplish your goal?
Most importantly, there’s something you, a writer, must remember. NaNoWriMo is never really over. This may be the last thing you want to hear right now, but on December 1st, NaNoWriMo Part II: The Revenge of WriMo begins. On New Year’s Day, we start NaNoWriMo Part III: Return to WriMo. Okay, so maybe these aren’t formally organized events you participate in with three- or four-hundred-thousand of your fellow writers, but every month—every day—is still about working toward that shiny word count and finishing your manuscript.
Try these tips to prepare to jump back on the horse after NaNoWriMo is over.
For the love of all that is good and holy, get some sleep
If you met your word-count goal, or even came close, you likely were not focused on self-care and healthy habits this November. Make sure you’re doing what you can to practice good sleep hygiene. And yes, the article in that link includes the dreaded advice to stay away from electronic screens before bedtime. If the likelihood of staying off your laptop (i.e., not writing) during one of the few precious free hours of your day seems as laughable to you as it does to us, at least try an app like f.lux that changes the color of your screen based on the time of day. Better sleep makes for a better brain, which makes for better writing.
Take this time to set new goals
One of the appealing elements of NaNoWriMo is the pre-set goal. You try to write 50,000 words in 30 days, which breaks down to about 1,667 words a day. The black-and-white, set-in-stone rules of the event make it easy to stay focused on what you’re supposed to accomplish. But once December comes, you may find yourself feeling a bit lost. The idea of trying to bust out 50,000 words a month (particularly during the holiday season) may feel unrealistic. But that doesn’t mean you should cruise along aimlessly.
Decide now what manageable daily, weekly, or monthly goals look like for your schedule. Write them down. If you need to adjust them each month, each semester, or to your time constraints or life circumstances, do it. Flexibility and adaptability is key to staying the course in the long term. But write your goals down every time you change them, and never abandon them altogether. Even a hundred words a week during a busy or rough time in your life can help you keep up the momentum.
Find accountability partners
Another element of NaNoWriMo that helps participants push toward the end goal is the accountability factor. There were literally hundreds of thousands of people all over the world battling through the writer’s block, plot speedbumps, and late nights alongside you. You were able to connect with your fellow warriors online to encourage and commiserate with one another. But once November’s over, everyone leaves their comrades and goes back to a solitary writer’s existence.
Now is the time to build yourself a new group of motivated writers to engage with. Workshopping is an invaluable tool if you can find a group of people who understand your genre and challenge you to improve. Not interested in workshopping? Grimace at the thought of having to endure scrutiny if you don’t have new pages at each group meeting? There are plenty of groups out there that just offer support, encouragement, and accountability.
NaNoWriMo may be over for this year, but you are a writer for life. Take a moment to rest, plan, and build a support network, and every month can be NaNoWriMo (but with more sleep).