Keeping Up the Motivation Without NaNoWriMo

Wednesday 3 December 2014 by

NaNoWriMo, Winner, 2014, Writing

I’m officially a winner! For the third year running, I’ve ‘won’ NaNo. I’m elated, and a little bit worn out, but buzzing with the energy being part of the NaNo community created.

But now it’s December. Christmas is looming, NaNo is over. I know from past experience how hard it is to keep going in December. Coming down from the high of November, you think you’re going to maintain that momentum, work really hard and by January you’ll be ready to take on the publishing world. Only it never actually goes like that.

I have picked up some tips over the years though for not hitting a brick wall on December 1st that prevents you picking up a pen again until next November.

1. Don’t worry about taking a few days off

You probably want to have a rest for a week or so – especially if winning NaNo involved some epic all-nighters. Catch up on your sleep, catch up on The Walking Dead, eat a meal that isn’t Doritos and grapes. Get out of the house. But don’t do this for too long. Take a few days off. If your days off stretch beyond the second week in December, it’s going to be really hard to get back on the horse, especially with Christmas Festivities looming.

2. Don’t expect to be as productive

NaNo does generate a special kind of magic. I’d never write 50,000 words in any other month. I wouldn’t be able to. So don’t beat yourself up if your daily word count more than halves. As long as you’re still writing, guess what: you’re still writing. You’re still making forward progress. The chances are your 50,000 words aren’t a completed project, or, like mine, are just a collection of scenes that need stringing together. You need to finish. 500 words a day is nothing compared to 1667, and should be easy enough to do. Your project could easily be finished by the end of December at that rate.

3. Set yourself realistic targets

And probably several smaller ones as well. You’ve been doing the long haul game in November – give your brain and fingers a break. Set yourself smaller challenges, tackle whatever is left on your project in chunks.

For my project, the first challenge is to try and put it into some sort of order (I’m not joking about the collection of unconnected scenes thing). I’ve sent it to a friend to read. We are going to get together with highlighters, red pens and wine and try to sort it into a logical order. Then we’re going to go through the contradictions that will inevitably arise and make decisions about which version of events is the right one. It will be a case of making more mess before things get tidier, but that’s week one’s target. Week two will be ‘tie together scenes X-through-Y’. Week three, scenes Y-Through-Z. etc.

4. Keep up the connections

Something new I did this year that I didn’t do last year was to set up a column on TweetDeck following the NaNoWriMo hashtag. I don’t normally participate in the social side – it detracts from the writing time, and living where I do, it’s not like there’s a massive community participating anywhere near me. But having the Twitter column open did give me a way in to the social side and it was surprisingly motivating. I replied to other writers who were struggling, or who had questions I could answer. I’ve gained followers, and had some laughs, and it’s felt good to be a part of a community.

There are hundreds of writing hashtags (pretty comprehensive list here) for all stages of the writing journey in all genres. Perhaps the most widely used is #amwriting, and this is the one that will be replacing my #NaNoWriMo column. Making connections with other writers is hugely motivating, and beneficial too – you don’t know who might in the future remember you answered their questions about archery and buy your book!

You can follow Loralei on Twitter: @LAHaylock

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