“You must want to enough. Enough to take all the rejections, enough to pay the price of disappointment and discouragement while you are learning. Like any other artist you must learn your craft—then you can add all the genius you like.”
—Phyllis A. Whitney

7 Things to Do When NaNoWriMo Is Over

For those of you who have held strong this November, you’re almost there! Only two days left in November. Regardless of whether or not you’ve won, the fact that you have made writing a priority this month is a huge accomplishment.

Now that November and NaNoWriMo is almost over, here are seven things you can do afterward.

NaNoWriMo Hangover

Photo by Mislav Morohnic

1. Mourn

If you feel defeated or frustrated, that’s okay. After November, take some time to mourn your month, your novel, and how far you fell short of your dreams.

Creating never goes as we want it to. There are always sentences that don’t sound right, plot points that don’t fit, characters who aren’t real enough, and far too many moments when you just couldn’t find the right words.

Before you start writing again, deal with those emotions. Mourn. Grieve. Then, let it go and move on.

2. Take a Retreat

You may not have had time for anything but writing this month. Take a weekend or a week to catch up on all those things you missed out on during November. Go for a run or a hike, watch some TV, go to bed early, hang out with friends and family, and do it all without feeling guilty that you should be writing (for a little while, anyway).

The real danger here is that you might binge on cheap pleasures that don’t actually give you rest. Instead, focus on resting your body and mind. Get yourself into a healthy place so you can refocus on your creativity.

3. Read

Speaking of things you missed out on during November, now that you’re not writing feverishly, why not read a book? Reading may spark new ideas for your novel or it may just be a good way to stay connected with your literary side.

The danger here is that you might compare your NaNoWriMo novel to what you’re reading and get discouraged. Don’t be afraid to read, but don’t feel the need to compare your work in progress to published literature.

4. Write a Short Story

If you feel you need to give your NaNo novel some space, but you’re not ready to start writing a new novel, why not write a short story. A short story takes about twenty hours to write from beginning to end, which is a big relief from the hundreds or thousands of hours a novel takes.  You can even repurpose a chapter from your novel and edit it into a short story.

5. Remember That It’s Not You

Creativity gets very difficult if you think you’re the one doing the creating. But more and more, I believe that our creativity doesn’t come from us but through us. It exists outside of ourselves.

Your job is not to do the impossible work of making perfect sentences. That’s the work of your muse. Instead, your job is to put yourself in a posture of active listening. (By the way, active listening still requires you to have your fingers on the keyboard for long periods of time.)

6. Play

A month of writing for word counts can make you forget how to play.

Remember that writing is not about getting to a number, whether it’s 50,000 or 150,000. Writing is about enjoying the words that flow through your fingers. Writing is about crafting sentences that will explode in the minds of readers. Writing is about joy and pleasure and meaning. Once NaNoWriMo is over, rediscover how to play.

7. Then, Write Some More!

You may deserve a break, but in case you’ve forgotten, 50,000 words is not a full length novel. If you think the fruit of your work this month has the potential for publication, you’ll need to write at least twice as many words, and probably more to leave room for editing.

Feel free to rest, but remember, you still have more work to do.

Don’t Think

I love this quote from Andy Warhol:

“Don’t think about making art, just get it done (you may want to tweet that). Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”

NaNoWriMo is over, but you haven’t stopped being a writer. Now it’s time to go make more art.

What are you looking forward to doing once NaNoWriMo is over? Share in the comments.

PRACTICE

If you participated in NaNoWriMo, spend some time “grief journaling” today. Make a list of all the ways you, your novel, and your writing skills fell short during NaNoWriMo. Try to spend at least fifteen minutes mourning, but also realize that you may need much more time.

Feel free to post your list here in the comments or not. This is for you.

About Joe Bunting

Joe Bunting is a writer and entrepreneur. He is the author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller Let's Write a Short Story! and the co-founder of Story Cartel. You can follow him on Twitter (@joebunting).

  • marianne

    Joe, I particularly like your comment that creativity does not come from us but through us. That seems true to me too, and it makes it much easier to write. i do best when I know that the story is already there, already exists somehow, and that I can give it permission to come out and play.

  • ElaineCougler

    I am not mourning the end of November because I made the tough decision NOT to do NaNo this year. I was on stage in a musical for eleven shows ending Nov. 24 so realized I could not put heart and soul into NaNo. Instead I sang and acted by night and finished off a final revision of my novel by day (2 weeks earlier than I had scheduled.) Next year I’ll try NaNo. This year I’m delighted with my progress on both my writing and my other life. For once I balanced myself.

  • Mirelba

    I’m not mourning either, I’ m celebrating! I know that not everything I wrote is great, I know that I still have loose ends that need tying and a lot more writing to do before I can call it a novel, yet I am celebrating the fact that I was able to persevere. And yes, I won, but even if I hadn’t made the word count, the fact that I was able to make writing a daily part of my life and stick to it (for a lot more than 15 minutes a day…) is the supreme affirmation that I can do it. And even if the remainder of the novel will take me another few months (I will not be continuing at 50K a month, but if I could do that, then 25-30K seems reasonable), I have learned how to make the writing a regular part of my life.

    I promised my family a bit of a writing break till next week, when I’ll resume my good habits. In the meanwhile, I have 16 people coming for the weekend, so I’ll be returning to my other creative process… cooking and baking.

    And BTW- in addition to the 50K, I also wrote four short stories for the weekly writing class I’m taking. Ain’cha proud of me? 🙂

    • Super proud, not to mention amazed by your discipline and focus. Great job, Mirel.

  • Let’s see. I’m not mourning. I’ve written way too many words to do that. 70,000 plus as of the writing of this comment.

    I see no reason to retreat. Believe it or not, I really didn’t put in a huge amount of extra time in order to get my word count. Many hours of television where still watched. I played with my niece and I still had time for my reading, which brings me to your third point.

    Okay, I read less than usual. I probably only finished reading a dozen books this month. I reread most of two series I like (I couldn’t find at least one book in each series). Lots of reading accomplished.

    Write a short story . . . yeah, that ship sailed a long time ago. I haven’t been able to write something short in a very long time. Well, unless you count those one-shots I wrote for fanfics. I guess those are short. Although I did have someone tell me I needed to make a longer story with at least one of them.

    My characters change my plot. I have no idea who (if anyone) is my musem but they sure are secretive about it.

    Story telling is how I play. I enjoy it. I do a lot of it. I have no idea how much I write in a normal month, but this is my playground so to speak. The typing I could do without, but the story telling I love. I need something to transcribe my spoken word for me. I wonder if that’s expensive.
    Yep. That one’s easy. I am always writing. It is something I love to do.
    So what am I looking forward to doing when I finish NaNoWriMo . . . writing, always writing. And school, oddly enough. Not a lover of school, but it’s certainly interesting right now. Oh, and there’s that crazy week coming up where we have two birthdays and Christmas in a four day span. I’m looking forward to that.

    • Awesome, Marlena. Good luck and go get ’em.

  • Steph

    Having mourned a book before, I love this post. The grief is so real when you’re going through it. I hope I don’t have to get sad about a project ever again….but I know it is inevitable. Writing really takes a lot of courage! And your #5 is fantastic. So true, so insightful, so simple. It is going on my board immediately.

    • Thanks Steph!

    • I have to disagree with you on one thing, Steph. Writing doesn’t take courage. Writing is easy breezy beautiful cover girl. Letting people read it is what takes courage. 🙂

      • I agree with both of you! It takes courage to write on that day when the words don’t come and everything is really really hard (or maybe that only happens to me).

        • Steph

          Writing is very hard! I sometimes have to remind myself of all the other hard things I have done to convince myself that I can, at whatever level, do this one! Your site is wonderful for challenging and encouraging us, Joe.

      • Steph

        Ha ha, does my writing have to be a cover girl? j/k, point well made!

    • mariannehvest

      It’s good to see you Steph. How’s Max? I hope he’s not the one being mourned because that would make me sad too.

      • Steph

        It’s good to see you, too, Marianne! I think you mean Rex. He is alive and cropped up in the food practice a couple days ago should you care to pay him a visit, soup’s on! No, he’s not being mourned. That was my first novel which I let become way too much of a baby when in actuality, it was a POV beast that needed to be put out of its misery! Rex’s story is under much stricter command, is fully outlined, conceived, and about 30% rough draft complete. I will finish the first draft and tuck it in a box for my children to chuckle about one day. It is my hobby, kind of like other people carve dining room chairs or grow bonsai gardens 😀 .

  • I didn’t partake in NaNo this year. Next year, probably. But to everyone who did participate, whether they wrote a hundred thousand words or two, I give mad props. Making an attempt is a good start. I couldn’t pull myself to do it this time around. Fingers crossed for next year 🙂
    I think Joe Bunting and all the good folks around here will give all the practice and encouragement I’ll need to pull through. Thanks in advance Joe!