If you made it to the end of November in one piece with a 50,000+ word document in your grubby little hands, congratulations!
If you got off track during November and only completed a fraction of the 50,000 word goal, congratulations!
If you had other things going on in November/hate NaNoWriMo/were immersed in your own writing project, and you managed to do something creative and fulfilling, you get a congratulations, as well!
Now that NaNoWriMo is over, a few things can happen. Participants can go back to sleeping regular hours, eating real meals, and seeing their loved ones. Haters can put their burning distaste for NaNo on the back burner for another year.
And most importantly, my damn house can get cleaned on a regular basis again.
See? We all have a reason to celebrate today.
(In full disclosure, though, I’m making no moves to clean my house).
But what about that huge manifesto you’re now the proud author of? What are you supposed to do now that the safety net of NaNoWriMo is gone?
You keep writing, yo.
Listen, I can tell you from experience that when you grow accustomed to writing and creating within a safe space (lookin’ at you, low-residency MFA program), the writing life outside of that space is strange and scary and unreliable. I couldn’t write for about 6 months after I graduated from my MFA program. I couldn’t figure out how to keep writing. It was intimidating to start a new project knowing there’d be no workshop, no comments from my mentor, no one to email with questions about transitioning scenes. No reading lists. No community.
NaNoWriMo is the same monster.
You spend one intense month writing towards a very specific goal. There’s a community of crazy people just like you the world over doing the same crazy thing. There are forums where you connect with said crazies. You receive weekly pep talks from successful, published authors. You buckle down and do the work because gosh darnit’, there’s a goal to meet!
Yup. Sounds like the MFA deal. Only stretch it out over 2 years and give yourself debilitating depression when it’s all over and it’s pretty much the same thing.
Solution? Just keep writing.
I mean, give yourself a break if you need it– but don’t get complacent. You didn’t charge through November for nothing.
If your story is done, start revising and rewriting it. Read great books while you’re doing so. Be strategic and purposeful in your decisions while revising. Have another set of eyes look at your work. Give it life, tension, and meaning.
If your story isn’t done, evaluate where you are right now. Do you need to step back and look at what you’ve created and give it more structure in the form of an outline? Or can you keep moving ahead? Do you know where the story is going? Read great books while you’re figuring this out. Study them. Be deliberate in your choices while you’re writing. And when you’re ready, have another set of eyes look at your work.
If you need a break, read some great books. Write short stories. Start journaling. Dive into The Artist’s Way. Just don’t stop writing.
You’ve built up momentum; ride it, writer.
Did you participate in NaNoWriMo? Have you in the past? What are your tips for writers who reach the end of something like NaNo or a writing program?