I’m convinced NaNoWriMo does its “Now What?” months in January and February because they know their writers are mentally exhausted by the time November 30th comes around. For pretty much the entirety of December, it seems like an impressive feat when I manage to string four words together in a semi-coherent way. And I know that I always have the best intentions for December 1—finish the first draft I’d begun in November, continue to write consistently, keep up the momentum and writing mojo—but it inevitably all falls through when I decide to take a break.
Just for December 1st, I think. I’ll just take one day off to rest my tired brain, and then suddenly it’s Christmas, and I haven’t written a word since I hit 50,000.
This year was only my second “win,” though I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo four times in total. The last time I won, I got pretty down on myself when I didn’t continue my writing streak through the end of the year.
This time, not so much. I’ve accepted that December is perhaps my very worst month for following through, so instead, I focused on the positive and set myself up for a successful 2019. Here’s what I did to pivot from post-NaNoWriMo blues to excitement about all the good writing I’ll do in 2019!
Set goals for January and the rest of the year
In December, when I finally recognized I wouldn’t be making any progress on my manuscript, I took a good look at what I could accomplish even if I wasn’t feeling my most creative. I took stock of my manuscript and asked myself some questions:
- What do I need to do to finish it? More brainstorming? A new outline? Just write the damn thing?
- About how much more writing needs to happen? 10K? 25K? Another 50K?
- How many days can I commit to writing in January?
- What will I consider “success” at the end of January?
Then, I put together the following schedule for myself in January (and February): Write at least 3 days each week, 1,200 words a day, for a total of 30,000 words in January and February
And that’s what will guide my writing life for the next two months! From there, I have plans for a new story outline and eventual first draft plus a full edit and second draft of my current project. Knowing where I’m going in the long term helps me get there.
Put together a manuscript-specific TBR list
As we writers like to remind anyone who will listen, Stephen King once wrote that “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.” We all like to bring it up so much because it’s true!
Learning to write well is a heck of practice + a heck of reading, and what better way to keep the NaNoWriMo blues at bay than by compiling a WIP-specific “to be read” pile. (And then reading it. You should definitely read them, too.)
Think about books in the genre of your current WIP that you haven’t read yet (because you’ll need to be well-versed when it comes time to query). Consider the ones not even remotely related to your genre of choice that trusted reading pals have recommended. Maybe you can even add some nonfiction selections if there are aspects of your manuscript that need a little researching.
Once you’ve put together your list of books, dive in! Something you read now might bring the exact spark you’ve been waiting for.
Immerse yourself in a new project
I’m not saying abandon your current WIP completely. I’m not.
What I am suggesting is taking a breather from it, letting your mind wrap itself around a new idea for a bit, then taking that reinvigorated creative energy and putting it back toward your manuscript. Whether this involves brainstorming a completely new concept, outlining a story that’s been forcing its way into your brain, or writing flash fiction or short stories based on prompts from Pinterest, it’s going to wake up that right side of your brain.
Celebrate your accomplishments
That’s right. I went there. NaNoWriMo is tough; it’s long and arduous, and if you took part (yes, even if you didn’t win!), you did something worthwhile. What’s more, you don’t need to worry yourself about November. It’s in the past. Instead, you have the entire year to make your writing dreams come true, and I’ll be here throughout the year, bringing you all sorts of content to keep you energize, inspired, and ready to smash those word goals!
Your new mantra for the year? I am a writer.
What do you do to keep the post-NaNoWriMo blues at bay? And if you’re on NaNoWriMo.org, come hang with me!
P.S. If you haven’t found a good system for tracking your writing outside of November, let me introduce you to Pacemaker Planner!