Life After NaNoWriMo

I found NaNoWriMo to be a bit of a daze. I haven’t had to apply so much discipline and creative thinking since University.  To say I was out of practice would be an understatement. I thought I had handled the month well, but looking back my nerves were shot and my gym time suffered. I’d do it again, but I’m hoping to acclimatise myself to writing everyday rather than launching head-first back into it.  

Since the end of November I’ve had two small setbacks. First there was a vacation and the haze of ‘do-nothing’ that seems to follow every trip of mine. Secondly, I’m currently starring into the dark hole of my novel, trying to find out where the end is. 

Theoretically I have 5 chapters (or 15K) left to write. My problem is that halfway through the novel I cut out a character’s point of view. Which didn’t seem a big deal at the time, but that decision began to snowball throughout the novel. I realized that crucial information my characters were supposed to receive, and the impetus for resolution, drove from that character. This lead to a complete rewrite of the second half of my novel. I don’t regret this change, I feel that my work is better for doing it – but what this means is that I still haven’t figured out the ending. 

I am a woman of many problems – but first and foremost, I hate finishing tasks. Whether it’s cleaning the apartment or writing a story, I seem to always wander off close-to-completion. What this usually means is that there is dust behind my bookshelves and there are loads of unfinished stories in my hard drive. As vices go, it’s not the worst. 

My goal in November was to write 50,000 words. I accomplished this. My goal for December is to actually finish the draft and begin the first revision. While it’s a worthy goal, it doesn’t have the same sense of satisfaction as updating my daily word count online. 

Judging by Twitter and the NaNoWriMo forums there seems to be other writers who feel a little aimless, a little out-of-sorts, since the end of November.

Here are a couple ideas to get back on track:

1. If you liked word count goals…

  • Scrivener (50% off if you won NaNoWriMo) has a word goal that you can set for each session. If you like numbers, Scrivener will tally total word counts, session word counts, number of pages – basically as much information as you can take.
  • There are online word counting tools, but using them is no different than just checking the word count in your processor.  Every year a few participants at NaNoWriMo talk about coding a similar word counting tool – I’ve yet to see any results but perhaps this is the year.  
  • For alternate ideas for a goal, maybe it’s not so much the numbers as the idea of a deadline. Create small deadlines for yourself everyday.  You can make hourly deadlines, word deadline, or create a music playlist and write until the last track. 

2. If you liked the community…

  • There are loads of writing communities online. Beyond individual sites, there are groups within Facebook, Tumblr, Livejournal and WordPress that are looking for writing and readers to show work to. The key is to find them.
  • Check you regional forums to see if any writing groups are starting after NaNoWriMo or try to start your own in a genre forum. 
  • If you follow certain genre or indie writers, usually their websites will have forums where there fans have formed writing groups. If there is an author who’s work you admire, or style you write similarly to, try checking to see if they have a writer’s group forum. One of the more well-known online writing groups formed out of Kelley Armstrong’s forums.
3. If you just want another NaNoWriMo…

  • The NaNoWriMo forums are relatively active throughout the year – updating with different monthly goals (February is Short Story Writing Month or… FebShoStoMo). I know, the acronyms get to be a little much. 
  • There is another initiative (that seems to have been set up by Sally Quilford) starting up on January 1st called 100K in 100 days. Where – you guessed it – you write 100, 000 words in 100 days. 

The idea is to continually apply what you learned during NaNoWriMo – that you can write everyday. You just need to sit down, shut up and do it. If you need to set deadlines, or play a soundtrack, or do a rain-dance, then so be it.

Whatever you need to do, do it. If there is one thing I’ve learned in November, it’s that I am not only capable of writing – I am capable of writing a novel. There is no mythical spark that will light my ass on fire to start writing – what I need to do is just get to work.