Life After National Novel Writing Month—Not Losing Your Go

So, time for the final nag: Well, NaNoWriMo is finally over, did you get your 50,000 words, didja, didja, didja?

My answer: Not even close.

And while some people understandably feel like they want to throw their pens in the air in despair, (or much more expensively, their computers), I’m not feeling bad at all. No, I didn’t win a t-shirt, or a bag of candy. But my daughter’s still sharing her Halloween candy with me, and since Thanksgiving is over and I’m staring down the barrel at the holidays, the last thing I need is candy. And ThinkGeek.com is going to suck all of my drawer space for t-shirts anyway.

So what now? What does the universe look like after NaNoWriMo, after the latest greatest writing revolution. For some people, there are a bunch of new exciting novels to work on editing. For other slow-pokes like me, what was the value of NaNoWriMo?

Well, I’m 20,000 words ahead of where I would have been otherwise. For a full-time public health professional, mom, and daydreaming sci-fi watching goof-off, that’s a lot. Like most people who try to cram way too much into their day without the benefit of Hermione Granger’s Time Turner or Doctor Who’s Tardis, my typical day is that when I finally get time to pull out my story and write, instead I find myself staring into space drooling, or watching TV, or discovering twenty other things I need to do. And so for me, showing up at a restaurant with a bunch of other people who are studiously ticking away at their keyboards and urging me to join their writing sprint, is really inspiring. It gets me to focus by giving me sanctioned time to write, and taking away most of my excuses for goofing around instead. There’s only so many times I can go to get brownies at the counter, or refill my soda, or run to the bathroom. Sooner or later, I sit and I write. I start to relax and words start pouring out, and at the end of the night, I’m happy.

The other great thing about NaNoWriMo is that I have ‘permission to suck’. So I don’t need to obsess over whether or not what I wrote was ‘good’. Who cares, for now? That’s what copy and paste are for, that’s what editing is for. I was thrilled to get a book published, but one thing that I didn’t count on was the paralysis afterwards of ‘what do I do now, what if the second one’s no good?’ So while I love writing and telling stories, it started to become more about whether someone else would like it than whether or not I would. In short, I started worrying too much, the way I worry about everything else. I didn’t even realize the transition until I realized that I was getting nervous about writing. The last time I got nervous about writing was when I was preparing to defend my master’s thesis in front of a committee. While that was buckets of fun, I’m not interested in doing that again.

So the benefits of NaNoWriMo were for me:

  1. I wrote more than I would have.
  2. I really enjoyed writing again.

Where do we go from here? Well, the great thing about writing is that sometimes it’s kind of like trying on the jeans you kept from high school, when you’re trying to lose weight and seeing that your hard work paid off and you went down two sizes. If you were having trouble starting a novel idea, and you see that you suddenly wrote seven chapters in four weeks, you want to finish it. Good stuff picks up momentum, and so NaNoWriMo is a great creative feeding frenzy that can suck you in if you let it, and propel you through the rest of the novel you want to write. At least, that’s what I hope it will do for me. I am now in the middle of Chapter 12 of the sequel to Pazuzu’s Girl. Wish me luck, and good luck finishing up your own NaNo novels!

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