What to do after NaNoWriMo

It’s over. The 2019 NaNoWriMo Challenge that I started with high enthusiasm a month ago ends today. And the winner (if you want to call it that) is…

ME! (applause)

Yes, I made it this year, with over 51,000 words and two days early. It was a great experience and I’m very glad to have done it.

But now what?

The party’s over, I got my winner’s badge. I don’t have to force myself back to the laptop after dinner. I’m
feeling vaguely…empty.

Logically, the first thing I need to do is think about what I learned while doing the challenge. What lessons can be shared?

Focus on quantity over quality

I think the most important lesson I learned is this: what really matters, if you want to successfully complete NaNoWriMo, is quantity over quality. That makes perfect sense, in retrospect. The website asks for the word count, not for you to share your perfectly crafted prose.

Yet, when I started the month, my intent was to finish with a pretty good draft of my story. Unfortunately, I grew bored with the plot after the first week, after I’d sunk a lot of time and nearly 12,000 words into it. So I switched to another story, one I really liked. I spent hours every day trying to get 1500 to 2000 words, because I wanted it to be right, wanted to get the flow logical and the sentences perfect.

It really slowed me down. Then, during the last week, I only had about 10,000 words left (which seemed like a lot). I thought “I’d better speed this up”, since Thanksgiving was looming with it’s three day cooking sprint. I focused on writing mostly the dialogue, with a few sentences to describe the setting or action. It looked more like a screenplay than a novel.

After that, the words wouldn’t stop coming! I could’ve easily gotten to 60,000 words by today’s deadline, had I not stopped once I met the goal. Now I realize I was trying to combine editing and drafting into one massive go, and that’s just not a productive way to work.

Write as if you’re watching your characters on a tv screen

That seems to be the secret for me, and I’ll gladly share it. Don’t spend time worrying about how the writing reads, don’t think about things such as choosing the right word, repeating the same words, using excess adverbs, or any of those other nit-picky tips you learned in writing class.

Just write like you’re watching your characters on a tv screen. If your story line is entertaining enough for you, you’ll get your word count down fast!

Great! Lesson learned for next year. Yes, I’m already looking forward to it. But now what?

When the race is over…

There are a few enticing offers in my NaNo winner’s email that I’m considering. One of them led me to a series of courses offered by David Farland that I think would greatly improve my writing skills.

Then there are writing prompts.

I chose this one from ReedsyPrompts:

Write a story about a family dinner that includes someone unexpected showing up.

Their prompt list is huge – as of the time of this writing, over 640 prompts – and if you sign up for their email they send you five prompts a week. Plenty of writing inspiration for me!

Each week they have a general topic that the prompts relate to. This week’s topic was “All the Fixins”, a theme focused on family dinners. Sounded just right for me since my mindset is now turning to Thanksgiving!

I spent the entire afternoon writing a short story, which I titled “Why Jack Sprat Could Eat No Fat” before
uploading to the website.

Oh, did I mention there was a contest, also? If you get your weekly submission in before 11:59 pm Eastern on Friday, you have a chance to win $50 and have your story published on the Reedsy Medium blog.
How cool is that?

It’s not the pressure of NaNo, but it gets the creative blood going. This morning I found next week’s list in my inbox. So I think I might make this a regular habit. It defnitely fills the void, especially until I can access the online courses I want to take.

This post was republished in 2023.

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