NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month. That time of year when, throughout all of November, writers around the world post about their daily word counts, how far behind they’re getting, and the epic writing sessions they’re involved in to catch up and get the 50,000 words written by the end of the month. By December 1, they’re exhausted from the last push to meet the NaNoWriMo goal. Is their novel complete? Not likely. Does it need to be edited? Yes. Will they finish it, edit it, keep writing? Maybe. In January. Or February.

If you or anyone you know has done NaNoWriMo before, you’ve seen this pattern. You may have fallen into it yourself in the past.

It isn’t just NaNo where this happens. I’ve seen it happen many times to myself and my friends after a writing retreat. We have a super productive weekend. Thousands of words are written, and then we’re exhausted and need a week or two off to recover, essentially negating any potential kickstart or boost the retreat was supposed to be to our daily output.

If we were to compare writing retreats and NaNo to sporting events, retreats are the sprint events of track and field, and NaNo is a marathon. Runners never compete in those events without months of training and building up their strength and endurance. Far too often, we writers go into retreats and NaNo with not nearly enough training.

By training I mean consistent writing before hand, to build up our endurance.

If you’re just starting out, start with a goal of 500 words a day. When you feel comfortable with that, push yourself to 750 or 1,000 words a day. Keep going until you reach a steady word count that is comfortable to you. As you reach that goal consistently, you will be ready to spend some extra time on it at a retreat and not feel too worn out at the end. 

Perhaps the rules for NaNo have changed since the last time I looked, but I believe you are not allowed to write any words on you novel before the start of November. Or perhaps you’re just not allowed to count the pre-November words. You are allowed, and encouraged, to outline before the start of NaNo, but even then, it can be hard to jump in and start writing. Consider writing something else up until November, so that you aren’t breaking the flow of writing time.

But, OK. You’ve done NaNo. You’ve now had a few weeks to recover. It is time to get back at it!

If you finished you novel during NaNo, let it sit for a bit before going back to editing. Start something knew. Keep that winning momentum going.

If NaNo was a kickstart, a boost to get you writing again, great! Keep the momentum going!

You didn’t get the 50,000 words? Who cares? Were you writing? Did you get more written in November than you had in October? Fantastic! Keep the momentum going!

You’re completely worn out? Guess what? Start small. Start with a goal of 500 words a day, then build up until you get back to a comfortable, consistent word count.

NaNo is great for getting loads of words on the page, and creating a supportive community for writers. But December 1, once you reached you 50,000 words, isn’t the only time of the year you can feel like you accomplished something with your writing. 

Write every week, write every day, and you can have that feeling every month!

Did you NaNo? Did you reach the 50,000 word goal? How will you keep the writing momentum going?

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