What Do You Do After NaNoWriMo?

Today’s the last day to reach your writing goal for NaNoWriMo. Whether you reach the goal or not, you should congratulate yourself for attempting to write a novel. That’s an achievement worth applauding. Regardless of your word count, what do you do after NaNoWriMo? The best advice I can give you is …


At least for now. I’ve complained long and loud about NaNoWriMo being in November because, for Americans, it’s a tough month to devote to writing with Thanksgiving waiting near the end. But it may be a better month that I’ve ever realized because December follows it. With all the holiday activities demanding your attention, December is the perfect time to do nothing with your manuscript. Romantic suspense author Di Ann Mills calls this hiatus “cooking time.”

Don’t look at the manuscript again until at least January 2. You’ll come to it with new eyes. Sections you thought brilliant may seem merely flat now. Or a scene that was particularly tough to write may read much better than you hoped.

Now that you’ve let your story sit and have reread it, it’s time to …

Edit, Edit, Edit

Everybody needs to edit their manuscripts and often pretty heavily. Some newbie writers believe the first draft is the best, but I’ve never written anything that didn’t improve from a second, third, or twentieth review.

Since editing is so important, I had planned to feature this subject in December and wrap my blog’s theme for 2023, “The Journey of a Book”. But Christmas is interfering. I think more readers will be able to learn from my posts on editing in January after all the hoopla of the holidays.

So for December, my theme is Christmas writing prompts and reposting the most popular posts from the seven years I’ve been blogging. Come January, we’ll be ready to tackle editing. If you’d like to catch up on the themes from this past year, follow the links listed below.

The Journey of a Book–2023

How to Take a Break During NaNoWriMo

Knowing how to take a break during NaNoWriMo is critically important if you’ve hit writer’s block and want to hit your word count by the end of the month. Your break can come in two ways–you can take a break from your novel and deliberately take actions to reignite the creative spark. Or you can take a break and deliberately take actions that have nothing to do with your story. Either approach will work.

Reigniting the Creative Spark

When your inspiration runs dry, you can take actions that you think will prime the pump of your imagination. Since I’m a mystery writer, I might review interviews I’ve already conducted with law enforcement and legal professionals, google new questions that have popped up since I began writing, or consult books I own in this area. I might reread my favorite mysteries to see if I can learn something new about plotting, setting, structure, or how to handle characters or dive into writing books and study any of those techniques.

Make a Clean Break

But maybe what you need is a clean break. That might sound crazy when you have a 50,000 word count to achieve, but trying to run a marathon without any fuel is crazy too. I’ve also thought it was crazy that this writing Olympics takes place in November. NaNoWriMo was created by an American, and he should know that only December is a busier month in our country. But the fact that Thanksgiving forces most people to take a break from their regular schedules can work in your favor if you’ve hit a wall of unproductively in your novel.

If you have to take off from writing for the holiday, make a clean break. Don’t do anything writing related for a day or two, which should be easy if you’re attending or hosting a Thanksgiving dinner. Force yourself away from your pen or computer. Try not to think about your novel at all.

Or you might try this approach. If I’ve run into a scene going nowhere, I tell my brain what the problem is and then stop thinking about it. Very often, ideas will begin to bubble and then rise to the surface. I’m not sure how this works, but I’ve had a lot of success by turning my brain loose from my conscious efforts.

After your clean break, you may be surprised at how eager you are to get the words flowing again. And at how easily they flow.

If you need a break from writing, what do you do?

For more tips on NaNoWriMo, click here.

The Agony of the First Draft during NaNoWriMo

If you are taking part in NaNoWriMo this year, it’s very likely the agony of the first draft will hit you. Very few writers can complete a first draft without doubts and even dislike creeping in. But never fear. Suddenly doubting or loathing the story you’re working on isn’t unusual. Just keep these points in mind.

The first draft is supposed to be ugly.

If you write a pristine first draft during NaNoWriMo, that needs no editing whatsoever, well done! You are an extreme rarity in the writing world. For the rest of us, we have to edit. An ugly, really ugly, first draft doesn’t mean you’re on the wrong track or that you have no future of a writer. In fact, if you think every first draft is perfect, you probably haven’t studied the craft enough. Understanding that all writing can be improved through rewriting and editing is a sign of maturing in the art.

You can’t fix what doesn’t exist.

Despite its ugliness, the first draft is necessary because you can’t get to the second, third, or umpteenth draft without it. It’s impossible to fix a story that only occupies your imagination. Now I like the editing process. It’s only when I’m into the fourth or fifth draft that I can finally judge whether a scene is working.

Please don’t think I have worked out to perfection how to handle the agony of the first draft. In fact, I’m hoping by writing out this view, I will find the motivation to continue my first draft of my second novel.

I have taken a break for two weeks because I felt like my first draft was going nowhere. In my imagination, I have the plot and clues entirely constructed. But when I actually put words to those imaginings, it reads horribly. I’m doubting whether I can write anything new or interesting. So I need as much reminding as anyone that the first draft can be agony and in the end be polished to diamond-dazzling brilliance.

Do you love writing the first draft? Or do you hate it?

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