What Not to Do When NaNoWriMo Ends

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Writers across the globe spent a frenzied month neglecting their laundry, sneaking writing time at lunch, and compulsively checking their word counts. Whether you won, lost, or didn’t participate at all, here’s what NOT to do the day after NaNoWriMo ends.

What Not to Do When Nanowrimo Ends

I always sign up for NaNoWriMo, even when that nagging voice in my head (or the reality on my calendar) says that there is little chance I’ll finish 50K this month because of other deadlines, illness, travel, or family commitments. I’ve finished 50K several years, but not this one. It’s okay. Any new words, revised words, or learning that has moved me toward my writing goals are wins.

3 Things NOT to Do When NaNoWriMo Ends

If you find yourself exhausted from the NaNoWriMo frenzy, here are a few things NOT to do in the aftermath today.

1. Don’t give up

I often finish a thirty-day challenge and think, “I’ve earned a day off. I’ll start again tomorrow or next week.” Then I wake up six years later and wonder where the time has gone.

In a Paris Review interview, author Haruki Murakami described the importance of a daily routine for writers when he said, “The repetition itself becomes the important thing.”

Small daily progress yields a large increase over time. Open your current project or a new one and write today, even if it’s only a hundred words. Keep your momentum going.

2. Don’t ignore the lessons learned

The first time I completed NaNoWriMo, I wrote a terrible, sprawling YA time-travel-coming-of-age-mystery-thriller novel (No, that’s not a marketable genre). I pantsed the whole thing and it was a mess. I tried to straighten out the story several times in revision, and I even paid for help from a editor.

We ended up scrapping the existing structure and nearly 40,000 words. I emerged with a cast of terrific characters, two scenes, and a ton of knowledge about what did and didn’t work for me as a writer. It was painful, but probably necessary to learn what I needed to learn.

Take a minute to reflect on your experience. Consider the act of writing as well as the story you produced. When you were most energized? What obstacles slowed you down?

Think about which scenes worked and which ones sagged. Notice patterns and plan to practice intentionally to reach your goals this week.

3. Don’t crawl back into the cave

My favorite part of NaNoWriMo is the community spirit it engenders. Keep in contact with those who inspire you to keep following your dream. Find a group that will cheer you, challenge you, and hold you accountable.

Encourage a writer to keep going, and you’ll find you’re inspired as well.

The Secret of NaNoWriMo

Here's the thing: the last day of NaNoWriMo isn’t the end. It’s the beginning.

Back to the quills and keyboards!

Did you participate in NaNoWriMo? What are you planning to do today to progress toward your goals? Share in the comments!

PRACTICE

Keep the NaNoWriMo momentum going! Pick one of the following prompts and take fifteen minutes to write.

  1. Finished NaNoWriMo, but still dreaming of your story? Take your characters on a mini-adventure and write a short story about their exploits.
  2. Started NaNoWriMo, but didn't make it to the end of your story? Pick up that work in progress, and keep at it!
  3. Don't have a work in progress, or need a break from your NaNoWriMo novel? Write a new story based on this prompt: a character totally meant to keep that promise they made . . . but they definitely broke it, and badly.

When you're done, share your practice in the box below. Be sure to comment on your fellow writers' pieces!

Enter your practice here:

Sue Weems is a writer, teacher, and traveler with an advanced degree in (mostly fictional) revenge. When she’s not rationalizing her love for parentheses (and dramatic asides), she follows a sailor around the globe with their four children, two dogs, and an impossibly tall stack of books to read. You can read more of her writing tips on her website.

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37 Comments

  1. Varina Suellen Plonski

    I didn’t do NaNo this year. Or last year, or the one before. What I did do is continue working on the novel I started in NaNo 2012, which I won, despite a wreck that totaled my car, a week looking for another to the exclusion of all else, and a week in the hospital (not related to the wreck).
    It’s taken me 5 years to get this far because in the process I realized I had too much going on for just one novel – but the story insisted it all needed to be there.
    Turns out it’s a series, and part of what took so long was figuring out what the other books are “about.” Well hey, can’t properly foreshadow anything if you don’t know what’s going to happen, right?
    I tried to do Nano in 2014, but failed for that very reason – I didn’t know what Book Two was “about.” I wrote a bunch of scenes, but got nowhere. I knew what things were happening, but I didnt know what was *HAPPENING* if you get what i mean.
    Now I do.
    And I have now been reliably informed by my muse (and several characters) that this is a SIX book series, not five, as I thought going into this November. I still have NO idea what Book Six is about.

    Reply
    • Sue

      Such an amazing point of view! You GO!

      Reply
      • Anupa Khanal

        It was too late when I knew about NaNoWriMo but I would never leave writing.
        But sometimes I don’t get any topic to write about.

        Reply
        • Varina Suellen Plonski

          Well, there’s always next year, Anupa Khanal! And Camp Nano, too! And some day, some time, you will find the idea that will burrow into your mind and heart and not let go, and it will whisper, “Write me!”
          If you’re here, it will happen. And once it does, it will never let you go.

          Reply
          • Anupa Khanal

            Thank you so much for your advice. So sweet of you. Hope the idea will struck my mind soon.

    • Evelyn Sinclair

      Your story – journey – is a real encouragement to a start-up writer. Thanx.

      Reply
    • Susan W A

      (1) wow (2) wow (3) wow (4) wow (5) wow … Oh, and (6) wow.

      Reply
    • 709writer

      Have to commend you on not giving up. Keep up the good work!

      Reply
  2. Mary M

    I haven’t participated in any of the NaNoWriMos; in fact, I just found out about it at the beginning of last month XD…but tbh I liked the prompt so I decided why the heck not try it out. PS: it’s a tad bit too sad and yeah
    :

    I was meant to keep it.

    I was meant to stay; no, she was meant to stay.

    I promised her forever; I promised her security, but I broke it.

    Guilt gnawed at my insides as I stared at her lifeless body. This wasn’t supposed to happen; she was supposed to live. And all that because of what? Because of a stupid deal. I was cold…numb. I was still…lost…pained…I was a mess. Footsteps; I heard them from behind me. Someone was approaching me, but I didn’t care.

    “Diego, I see you’ve kept your end of the deal and I’ll keep mine,” I ignored the gruff man talking and let the cold tears race down my face. “You will have the home you’ve always wanted.

    Taking a shaky breath, I spoke: “It means nothing now.” My body started shaking as all emotions intensified to rage. “That home was meant for two. Two lovers: a husband and a wife. It was meant for a f-family,” I gently laid her body down, “but now, it will only carry one person with the world’s burdens. The family will not exist with only one man.” With quivering shoulders, I stood up, turned around, and faced the reason behind all my problems.

    I was no longer afraid of this man. I’m not afraid of his ice-cold eyes, or the scar running across half of his face. I’m no longer afraid of his immaculate suit or the men behind him with guns. I am not afraid of his powerful aura or position. I am not afraid of what might happen to me. All rational thoughts and fears flew with the winds the moment I saw that bullet penetrating her chest and stomach, and all by none other than his men.

    “You have ruined my life!” I growled out with feral rage.

    “No, you did everything; I was a mere instructor.” He had the audacity to smirk smugly as if it was all he planned.

    With a loud grah, I went to attack him. We crashed to the floor in a heap. I sent punch after another releasing with each a grunt or a scream. Hands started pulling me, but he waved them off. He laid still beneath me and didn’t struggle. I was growing tired from my ongoing assault. Soon, I’ve had enough, so with one final punch, I got off him. He got to his feet as if nothing was wrong and spat out blood.

    “Now, I’ve tolerated your despicable actions so far. Next time, I won’t be lenient.” He snapped his fingers and a man came behind me. Before I could react, a kick sent me sprawling on the ground beside my wife. I didn’t get up. Their footsteps receded and soon they disappeared.

    I pulled my wife’s body and hugged it tightly as the tears returned once again with the fatigue. Her lifeless hand fell onto my lap as I turned her. There was a flash of something white in her hand. A piece of crumpled white paper (now stained with blood) was clutched between her fingers. I took it tentatively.

    ‘I didn’t know how to tell you this and I didn’t have the courage to. I know it’s news we should be happy about, but I didn’t know what your reaction could be. I know you said you weren’t ready for this, but it’s out of our hands.’ My shoulders shook again with greater force as I continued reading her net handwriting. ‘After much thought, I decided to just write it down. There is no other way to say it, o her goes nothing…I’m pregnant.’

    My heart stopped with that sentence. It clenched painfully in my chest. I let out pained screams with the sobs. I clenched the paper in my hand and her closely. My now bloodied hand now hovered over her stomach as I leaned over her. Guttural sobs escaped my lips.

    I had lost her and the baby, our baby. We were planning on finally starting a family. I wanted that house for us and our future kids. I was too desperate. I shouldn’t have. I shouldn’t have done that.

    With a final scream, I wiped all my tears. I stood on shaky legs tall and vengeful. Taking her body into mine, I turned around and exited the building. With newfound resolution, I vowed revenge. I will avenge her. I will take my revenge, and I shall not stop until I feel that man’s blood running through my fingers.

    Reply
  3. Inci Haksoz

    First time I started and finished a novel. Did not register anywhere just started on Nov 1st and finished Nov 30th. I won’t look at it for 2 months I don’t want to discourage myself. I have something to count on my 2017 achievents. Yey!

    Reply
    • Christine

      You may not look at your story for two months, but I’d encourage you to write a little bit about one of your characters every day. A paragraph or two about their personalities, likes, dislikes, reactions to various circumstances.
      Having finished Nanowrimo, but not my story yet, I’ve concluded that I can’t stop caring about the people I’ve created or this project is going to fall off the back burner and down behind the stove to collect dust and guilt bunnies for years.

      Reply
      • Inci Haksoz

        Thank you for the advice

        Reply
    • Evelyn Sinclair

      Inci, I’m interested to know how long was your novel? To comlete in a month sounds a real achievement. Congrats.

      Reply
      • Inci Haksoz

        Word count was 66500 but there are repetitons that I need to revise so I am not sure how much I will cut.

        Reply
    • Sue

      WooHoo! Such an awesome accomplishment. Congrats. Celebrate and keep plugging away at your writing goals.

      Reply
    • Susan W A

      My goodness … creativity and productivity defined!

      High fives & hugs to you for your great perseverance and accomplishment!

      Knowing that you made and kept that commitment to yourself will serve you well as a reminder for future challenges (related or not to writing).

      Reply
  4. Evelyn Sinclair

    I didn’t take part in NaNoWriMo as I joined the site too late for that. But I want to write a story based on my links to the sea. So today I’m starting.

    It’s called the Holy Loch. Why? I don’t really know. Something to do with a sixth century monk from Ireland who sailed (in his corracle presumably) up the Firth of Clyde, into this small sea loch and built a Church where the village of Kilmun now stands. I live on the other side of the loch, in Sandbank and there is more activity generated on the loch from this side. I learned to swim here, my father up to his waist in the water with me, supporting my head. Suddenly I was floating. I nearly drowned in the excitement of that moment, but I was launched, and continued to swim in the open water for pleasure. No heated indoor pools for me! and the open water is free – always a consideration for a child from a working class background. I had many escapades in those waters. Sometimes, with a friend, I would venture into the boatyard across from the house, borrow a rowing boat, (oars and rowlocks were always left in the yard boats) and we would take turns at rowing out into the loch. On one occasion it was to look inside the open broken hull of a container ship which had sought refuge in the loch. Another time we might simply take our fishing lines and look for mackerel. Life was never dull, and we duly returned the dinghy to where we had found it. Then there was the weekly regatta. Not able to afford a membership fee to the local sailing club, we discovered that by waiting on the pier among the sailors, there could be someone lacking a crew mamber for the racing, and that was our chance. Thereby hangs another exciting episode.

    Reply
    • Sue

      Today is the best day to begin– so glad you are plunging in. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your practice!

      Reply
    • Susan W A

      Wow … I want to grow up in Sandbank! … and have my own coracle (yes, I looked it up).

      Great job, Evelyn Sinclair. I love that you started today!

      Reply
      • Evelyn Sinclair

        Thanx Sue. I want to go back and live in Sandbank too. I still keep in touch via local newsletters.

        Reply
  5. Samantha Proctor

    Great post! I think it’s so important for NaNo participants to know that they shouldn’t give up after November ends. Thanks for writing such an awesome article!

    Reply
    • Sue

      You’re welcome! Glad it resonated with you. Thanks for stopping by to read and comment.

      Reply
  6. Susan W A

    Thank you, Sue Weems, for your post. NaNoWriMo is not currently part of my goals, but I loved your concept … simple idea, but applies to whatever goal or new habit we have … after we finish that first focused period of incorporating the new habit into our day and our life, the day after is a new opportunity to continue.

    Reply
    • Sue

      You’re welcome. Good luck as you continue any habit you are working on!

      Reply
  7. Sarojini Pattayat

    We shouldn’t give up the habit .
    Awesome. Happy writing

    Reply
  8. 709writer

    The man stood beside her in a suit and tie. “Just answer the questions, little girl. So we can help you.”

    They didn’t want to help her. They wanted to help themselves. Her voice quivering, she said, “I’ve told you all I know.” All she knew she could trust them with, anyway.

    “We’ve asked nicely. We’ve provided you protection. Now we need something from you.”

    They’d never asked. And Shadow had protected her, not these strangers in suits. Her scalp burned and fire lit in her stomach. She wanted to scream. Wanted to let the tears roll down her face while she shrieked at them that the only thing they’d done was help the man who’d hurt her, Doctor Harrison. But she held back the scream and she blinked to pull back the tears.

    Folding her arms tight, she stared straight ahead at the wall. “I…want…Shadow.” Then she pressed her lips together.

    A few moments of silence passed.

    Then the man slammed his hands on the tabletop and she flinched at the loud smack of his palms against the metal. “Doctor Harrison tortured you,” he shouted. “You should want to tell us every single detail so we can find him and stop him from–”

    “No,” she yelled back as she snapped her head in his direction and glared into his face. A pounding throb thumped in her head. “You people want to find him so you can make a deal with him.” Her hands fisted. “Not so you can stop him from hurting someone else!”

    The back of his hand slapped her cheek like an iron skillet.

    She toppled from her chair, saliva and blood welling in her mouth, and caught herself before her head could crack against the tile floor.

    “You will cooperate, young lady,” the man said in a low voice.

    She lifted her head and glared at him through her blur of tears. Her cheek stung, and when she touched it, it was already swollen. “This is how you fix problems?” Her voice broke and sobs gathered under her ribcage. “This is how you protect people?”

    I’d appreciate any comments/feedback. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Sue

      Such a tense scene for so few words. Love it. The one thing that stopped me was him calling her “little girl” at the beginning, when it is clear they knew her name. Keep going! Thanks for stopping by to read and share your practice!

      Reply
      • Varina Suellen Plonski

        Ah, but calling her “little girl” is calculated to show how very insignificant she is in their eyes! It’s dismissive. It shows her she is not important enough even to merit a name.

        Reply
        • 709writer

          Yes! Thank you so much for your feedback!

          Reply
      • 709writer

        Thank you, Sue!

        Reply
    • Rose Green

      Very intrigued by everything that isn’t said in the piece. What exactly did Dr Harrison do? And why would the man questioning our heroine want to help him? And who – or what – is Shadow?!

      Great piece. Thanks for sharing.

      Reply
      • 709writer

        Thank you for your feedback! Shadow is an anthropomorphic hedgehog (from the Sonic the Hedgehog series); I write fanfiction about the characters in that series.

        Reply
  9. Debra johnson

    I finished Nano a day early with 50,973 words. Afterwards I spent yesterday and today going through it and weeding out what I didn’t want. There was a bunch I wont use here but will use elsewhere. Anyway, I eventually separated the novel and found three different stories all with the same aim or ability to merge into a bigger piece. Today I spent 1/2 the day editing I finished 20 pages today. As I look back over my past Nano attempts, I can see where I have changed and grown. I have also seen where I need to focus harder on and correct this issues. I’ve written a novel since 2011 with the exception of 2013. This is the 3rd one out of 6 I have begun edits on so far. We’ll see what happens next year.

    Reply
    • Sue

      Congrats, Debra! It is amazing to look back and see growth. Good luck as you continue to edit.

      Reply
      • Debra johnson

        Thanks. I am using the nano goal tracker to keep track of the hours I edit. And a separate notebook to keep track of hours, pages and new words. I’m actually pleased with what I wrote this year. To get ready for next I’m going through past stories and folders and cleaning house getting rid of the old and in with the new, as well as the stories I want to tell.

        Reply
  10. Rose Green

    Dani was having a difficult day. The twins were both sick and were currently lying on the couch – one at either end – watching television. At least, that was what they were supposed to be doing. In reality, they were kicking each other and arguing over who had the largest portion of the blanket that covered them both.

    “Girls! I’m beginning to think that if you’re well enough to fight with each other, you’re well enough to go to school.”

    Both children fell silent at once and pulled their most pathetic ‘I’m really ill’ faces. “It’s because we’re ill that we’re fighting,’ said Hannah.

    Rachel nodded. “Yes! If we weren’t so ill, we’d be playing together.”

    They had a point. Normally, they got on very well together, far better than some of her friends’ children. “OK, OK, I give in. Just keep it down.”

    “Yes, Mummy!” they chorused and Dan I retreated back into the kitchen where she was trying to decide what to make for dinner.

    “I can help, Dani…” a familiar voice whispered in her ear. Except that it was not the whisper of someone standing next to her and speaking. The whisper was actually in her ear, inside her head.

    “I wondered how long it would take you, Nima Shahnaz,” she said with a smile.

    “I am always ready to serve you,” replied the genie. It sounded a little put out, as if her desire to cook food for herself was somehow a slight on its abilities.

    “I know that,” and she patted the locket she wore around her neck, the locket in which the genie… resided… “but sometimes I just like to do things for myself.”

    “I do not understand. Usually, mortals will do anything to avoid doing anything for themselves.”

    “Well, I’ve never been like other mortals, have I?”

    She caught sight of a movement out of the corner of her eye and found that the twins had joined her, the blanket wrapped around their shoulders.

    “Who are you talking to, Mummy?” asked Rachel.

    Reply
  11. Sonya Ramsey

    I did not participate NaNoWriMo, but reading all the comments seems like it was a challenge. Some deadlines and promises I seem to make as a writer has allowed me to grow by creating more and more deadlines with my word count. It has grown me professionally and to trust my instinct that I could be a better writer and one day hit the 50k words.

    Reply

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