From NaNoWriMo to Novel: Navigating the Creative Marathon and Beyond

Nov 21, 2023 | Writing

  • “Write first! Ask questions later!” 
–Chris Baty, NaNoWriMo founder

National Novel Writing Month, affectionately known as NaNoWriMo, is an annual event that brings together writers from around the world with a shared goal: to write a 50,000-word novel in the span of a month. It’s a challenging endeavor that encourages participants to push their creative boundaries and overcome the hurdles of self-doubt and procrastination. But what comes next once you’ve crossed the finish line and typed the last words of your manuscript? In this blog post, I’ll discuss what NaNoWriMo is, the benefits of participating, and what to do once you’ve completed your writing marathon.

What is NaNoWriMo?

NaNoWriMo, founded in 1999, has grown into a global phenomenon. Every November, hundreds of thousands of writers commit to the daring goal of completing a 50,000-word novel in just 30 days. NaNoWriMo, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, provides a supportive community, with forums, local write-ins, and virtual encouragement and structure to help writers stay motivated throughout the month. The emphasis is on quantity over quality during the drafting phase, allowing creativity to flow without the constraints of perfectionism.

The Benefits of NaNoWriMo:

Discipline and Routine: NaNoWriMo instills a sense of discipline by requiring participants to consistently write daily. This routine not only helps achieve the word count goal for November but also establishes a writing habit that can hopefully endure beyond November.

Community Support: The camaraderie among participants is a powerful motivator. Sharing struggles and triumphs with fellow writers creates a sense of accountability and support that can be invaluable throughout the writing process.

Overcoming Perfectionism: NaNoWriMo encourages writers to silence their inner critic and focus on getting words on the page. This can be liberating, allowing creativity to flow without the hindrance of perfectionism.

Crossing the Finish Line:

Congratulations, you’ve completed your NaNoWriMo journey! Now what?

During NaNoWriMo’s “Now What?” months in January and February, the organization provides resources and tools to help you set goals and continue your creative writing journey. Through services like NaNoFinMo (National Novel Finishing Month) and other virtual resources, they assist authors in what comes next. Here is an overview:

What to Do Next:

Step 1Take a Break! After a month of intense writing, give yourself a well-deserved break. Step away from your manuscript for at least a week or two to gain fresh perspective before diving into revisions. During this time celebrate your achievement and reflect on your progress. Consider what you’ve learned about your writing process during NaNoWriMo. Did you discover new techniques that worked well for you? Reflecting on your progress can inform your future writing endeavors.

Step 2: Seek Feedback: Share your work with trusted friends, writing groups, or beta readers. Constructive feedback can provide valuable insights and help you polish your novel. See my previous post discussing the value of beta readers.

Step 3: Revise and Edit: Begin the revision process with a critical eye. Identify areas that need improvement, strengthen character development, and refine your plot. Don’t be afraid to make substantial changes to enhance the overall quality of your manuscript. Seek out quality developmental editors to help sculpt your story and a good copyeditor to put on the final polish.

Step 4: Research Publishing Options: If your goal is to publish your work, explore different publishing options, whether traditional or self-publishing. Research literary agents, publishing houses, or self-publishing platforms to find the best fit for your novel. If you are considering a hybrid route, read this blog post about hybrid publishing vs. vanity publishing.

NaNoWriMo is more than a writing challenge; it’s an opportunity to unleash your creative potential and connect with a global community of writers. As you revel in the sense of accomplishment after completing your novel, remember that the journey doesn’t end there. Use the momentum gained during NaNoWriMo to propel yourself into the next phase of your writing adventure—whether that’s revising, seeking publication, or embarking on a new literary endeavor. The world is waiting for your story. Happy writing!


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