December is Na-Now What?-MoNational Novel Writing Month is nearly over. For marathon writers everywhere, the end of November cues a collective sigh of satisfied relief. The rigid, daily ritual of vomiting out 1660-word bucket-fulls of raw, creative genius will slacken, and like coming off any intense schedule, participants will often be left physically exhausted and emotionally drained. It's natural to need a break from writing after such a strenuous stretch. But beware: that little break can easily turn into weeks of full blown writer's neglect, especially around the holidays when seasonal demands take priority over creative pursuits. Don't let a film of dust form on your keyboard! Here are five ideas for warding off the pitfalls of writer's burnout and maintaining a sane dosage of NaNoWriMo momentum:
1. Resist the urge to jump right into NaNo novel revisions. It's too soon, and your burnout will likely intensify. Put the manuscript away; close the file, tuck it neatly into its folder tree, and leave it there. Stephen King says in his book "On Writing," that he puts a new manuscript in his desk drawer for at least three weeks. That way, when he does read it, his 'fresh eyes' easily detect plot holes and character development issues needing attention during revisions. Sage words from a true master of the craft.
2. Write a new story. It doesn't have to be a new novel; in fact, I suggest tackling short or micro fiction. It'll be good to finish a project, bolstering confidence to then go on and finish the NaNo novel. The idea now is to shift gears, head down a new path and see how the perspective changes. Entering a contest is a great way to prompt you while presenting a deadline to keep you creatively on track. Good ones that run every day or month at Writing.com are "Daily Flash Fiction Challenge" and "Twisted Tales Contest" . (Writing.com membership is FREE.)
3. Try your hand at one of those God-awful end-of-the-year letters people like to send at Christmas time. (Okay, I admit it, I write one every year. Don't judge me! ) Instead of recapping all the wonderful accomplishments you and your family members have achieved, which tends to bore even the most loving of readers, try approaching it as an exercise in creative nonfiction, where you share a special memory or an insight gleaned in 2012. Even if you don't end up slipping a copy into every holiday card you send, you may uncover something about yourself you wouldn't have known had you not articulated it in this way.
4. Find yourself too burnt out of creative energy to write? Practice your revision and editing skills by pulling out an old story from your portfolio and revamping it. Not only will this train you for the revision phase of your NaNo novel, but you may uncover that elusive twist of magic that takes the story to the next level.
5. And if you really can't get that NaNo manuscript out of your mind, don't fight it. Try writing short stories or scenes starring your novel's characters. Explore them from outside the timeline of your book. Tell about an incident from their childhoods, or describe their first kiss. You never know what you might learn about them that may come in handy during revisions!
The intensity of writing 50,000 words in a month is exhilarating but exhausting. In the weeks following NaNoWriMo, beat writer's burn-out by writing a little every day. Look for new projects that kindle the fires of creativity. Before you know it, the time will be right to re-read your NaNo manuscript and start revisions. And when that time comes, you'll be ready!
Question For Next Time: How do you decompress after the intensity of NaNoWriMo?
[Published by me today in Writing.com's Drama Newsletter.]