Life After NaNo: What’s a NaNovelist to do After November is Over?
by Stacy Jones
The holidays are over. The New Year’s celebrations have come and gone and so have your excuses to procrastinate. The problem that we NaNovelists, have at this time of year is keeping the momentum going after November and the holidays are over. In some ways, November is probably not the best month to choose to write a novel, especially if you have a family at home, because you and I both know that you’re not going to keep going during the holiday season. You’ve got family obligations. You’ve got packages to wrap. You’ve got shopping to do. That’s all fine and dandy for December, but December is over now and January is here. This is the time of year when we should sit down with ourselves and instead of making resolutions, work on doing real things that actually change our lives. This is a great time to form new habits, like writing 1500 words every single day. The only thing that’s stopping you from finishing that novel, and you and I both know that 50,000 words does not a novel make, is you. Here are some tips to help you get back to work on that novel:
Word count does not matter. No joke. NaNo is over. How much you write each day is not as important as you setting aside time, making a goal and actually doing it. My goal is 1500 words per day. Maybe you don’t have time for that. Maybe you can do 500. That’s fine. This is about forming the habit so that you can meet your life long goal of finishing that novel so that you can prep it and submit it for publication. It’s not about how much you accomplish each day. It’s about sitting down and actually accomplishing something, even if you only have time for a sentence, or a poem.
Start by breaking out your NaNovel. Dust that puppy off and dive into the manuscript. Correct all of the spelling errors, get rid of all of the “the the” mistakes and ditch everything that is not directly relevant to the story you’re trying to tell. If yours looks anything like mine when you’ve finished the post-NaNo clean up, you’ll end up with about 36,000 words. Don’t get discouraged! You were just trimming the verge. The flower beds needed weeding. Now that you’re done with that, you can get on with the more important stuff.
Next, you have to carve out the time. You remember how you made time during NaNo? Probably by attending write-ins, online or otherwise. Someone else set the schedule for you. Maybe you were choosing which day you could attend and squeezing time to write out of other moments, but what it boils down to is that you need to set aside a time in your day when you have nothing better to do than write. Put it on your schedule. Not later, right now. Choose a time of day, every day, when you will be able to sit down in front of your computer and slam some words of life giving prose out of your brain! Once you’ve set a schedule, make this a part of your routine.
Making it a part of your routine means you will have to get your family on board. They supported you during NaNo. There is no reason they shouldn’t be supporting you after NaNo. One hour of time each day is not too much to ask. It really isn’t! You may not be able to find a complete hour all joined up nice and neat if you have a toddler at home, but you can probably find 20 minute spans where they can be occupied with other things while you write, or take 20 minutes after you put them down for the night. Whatever time you can find, take advantage of these moments to improve your word count and refine your novel. Trust me, it will not only help keep you sane, it will also keep your novel moving.
Once you have the family on board and have set aside a time when you’re going to write, the next thing you need to do is eliminate distractions. For me, I make sure that any chores that could be done, have been done. Also, I do not allow craft projects or playing with RC cars— yes, I have RC cars in my office— to get in the way of writing time. Writing time means just that. It’s time spent on writing. Yes, distractions include googling that random sword maneuver, or the best possible means of burning out a car, even if it’s for your novel. Do that research beforehand.
The last step is putting your space in order before your writing time begins. If you need coffee, tea, chocolates, music or your Newton’s Cradle clacking away in the background before you can write, get it done beforehand. Whatever it is that you need that puts you in the mood to be creative, get it started. Organize your bookshelves, line up your individual volumes of the Harry Potter novels so that they are all in perfect order. Get out your bottled water and put the chocolates on your desk in a bowl. The less you have to get up once you get started, the more you will accomplish during your writing time.
Be aware that when it comes down to it, daily writing is the goal. It’s not about just this one novel. If you want to be a good writer, then the best way to do that is simply to write. Write a lot and do it every single day. If you find yourself not feeling like working on your novel every now and then, this is completely fine. Write something else. I have a separate project in Scrivener for short story ideas and a separate project for blog posts. Every now and then, if you’re lucky, you have supportive folks around you, like the Spokane River Writers, who will ask you to write a blog post for them. All of that writing matters! Everything that you write, even if it’s a letter to your grandma, improves your skill as a writer and makes your novel better. So don’t get stuck focusing on only one project if that’s not what works for you. Move it around a bit if you need to, but do make sure that you always go back to a project and finish what you started.
Now get out there and finish those novels people! You can do this!