Counting today, five days remain in National Novel Writing Month. I finished my first draft (65,000+ words) about a week ago, and I think the writing adrenaline left me then.
NaNoWriMo involves a lot of build-up in the month of October, rolls along at a fever intensity for the thirty days of November, then you have a writing crash. Holiday shopping and other preparations intervene, and December can easily become a Month of No Writing.
(And here, I’d like to give a shout-out to my regional NaNoWriMo group, Shenandoah Valley and Winchester Wrimos. The administrators–Susan Warren Utley, LaMishia Allen, and Rebecca Postupak give plenty of encouragement and become your personal cheerleaders through their in-person and on-line events. Great group and great folks.)
I have a personal rule about a NaNoWriMo draft: I put it aside for several months, just to move it from the forefront of my writing brain, and work on other things. After finishing the first draft on November 20, I really had to resist going back and beginning to edit the draft right away. What’s wrong with that, you ask? Not enough distance yet between the first draft and the need to revise. For me, at least, I need to clear that first draft away and forget about it for a while. Only then can I come back and take a “fresh” look at it.
The professionalism of the people who run NaNoWriMo means they don’t encourage you to run out and self-publish that first draft, and to further encourage our success, their web site includes a list of NaNoWriMo-ers who have had their NaNoWriMo novels published. When you study this list, you’ll see that, for those who’ve had their novels published in the traditional manner, it was the novel from two or three years before, i.e., after likely several rounds of editing and revising.
So, if you’re not revising that newly minted NaNoWriMo draft, how can you keep from getting a post-NaNoWriMo let-down? First, who says you only have to start a new novel in November? Start a new novel, work on revising a short story, edit a previous NaNoWriMo work, write a piece of flash fiction–the writing possibilities are endless.
I’m “lucky” in that I have all these manuscripts sitting around in various stages of completion. There’s always something for me to work on, and it’s not like I have to force myself to write. The issue for me has always been treating writing like what it now is–my work, my career. I mean, I took Thanksgiving Day off and felt guilty about it. I guess my pre-retirement, Type A work personality just shifted to my new job. And that’s a good thing?
The only let-down from NaNoWriMo for me was not working on something new and different from what I usually write. With my writing, though, in more ways than one, there’s always work to do.
How about you? What do you do after you’ve finished a project? Do you take a writing break or start right in on the next project?