NaNoWhatNowMo

Okay, ‘fess up. Who among us is bleary-eyed this morning, having raced midnight to eke out those last few words on the way to 50,000, in a breakneck attempt to “win” NaNoWriMo this year?

If you hit that milestone, congratulations!

If the deadline whooshed by and you have a tangle of words that, no matter how you squint, doesn’t make it anywhere near 50K, don’t despair:

YOU ARE NOT DONE.
YOU DID NOT LOSE.

If you’re kicking your own ass this morning because you didn’t hit that goal, I understand. I’ve been there. But here’s the thing: if you’re serious about writing, your output over one 30-day period does not define you. People who hit the goal now need to go back and edit – or even finish – their novels. Their work isn’t done. Neither is yours.

Give yourself a little time to wallow, if you need to. It’s okay. But set a deadline on that: a couple of hours, the morning, maybe even the whole day. Eat some fancy chocolate, goof off on the internet, snuggle your furry animal friends. Fight pixellated dragons. Do things that make you feel better.

Then get right back up on that writing horse.

Were you fired up on November 1st? Ready to tackle the blank page and fill it with your characters, your story, your badass ideas? Go back and read those first few pages. Reread your notes, if you jotted any down in October.

If you feel the need to tinker with what’s there, this might be the time to do it. I say might because no two people have the same writing habits. Sometimes tinkering is a good thing. Others will end up tinkering endlessly, rewording and rearranging the same page over and over and… But if you’re anything like I was, the first few times I NaNo’d, there were absolutely chunks of exposition and backstory and useless junk I wrote in a fit of must get to 1667. Cut these – don’t get rid of them entirely; they might be useful later on. Could be good things for you, the author to know, whether or not your reader ever learns them. Yes, it reduces your wordcount even more, but that’s not a bad thing.

Whether you’ve tinkered or not, take stock of where you are in the story, where you want it to go from here.

Set yourself a new goal. Look at your calendar and be realistic. Did you notice any patterns in your writing in November? Were some days better than others, output-wise, or even brainspace-wise?

I know that, for me, 1667 words every single day isn’t a goal I’m going to hit consistently. I have a day job. I have other responsibilities. Somewhere in there, I need to read books, see friends, have non-writing-related fun. I also have learned that, in general, Monday nights are a wash for me. That first day back at work after the weekend leaves me tired and out of focus. On the other hand, Sundays are my big writing day.

Think about how to word your goal in a way that works best for you. Do you do well with a smaller daily goal, one you can realistically hit and feel good about if you go over? Is it better for you to be able to look back over the month and average out the words at the end? The point here is, set a goal you can hit, and hit consistently. It’s not cheating. You don’t have to stretch for anything. You don’t have to prove you can do more, or do it faster, than your natural writing pace.

Did you have NaNo buddies? Whether you participated in the community or had friends you knew from outside of NaNo cheering you on, keep in touch with them. Ask them to keep writing, too. Having a circle of people who will hold one another accountable – or, y’know, give you a swift kick in the ass to get writing – can be another way to keep the words flowing. Word sprints, bi-weekly critiques, even simply occasional “how’s the writing going” emails. What do you need from them? What do they need from you? Do those things.

Above all, keep writing. You can do this.

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