Now that you’ve achieved your 50k NaNoWriMo novel word count, you’ll want to rest your writing. No, you don’t stop writing—even if it is holiday madness time. But resting that hot mess of a draft will help you when you begin editing after the new year.
Writing Tip for Today: Here are three easy ways to rest your NaNo novel writing and still produce word count:
Some writers tell me they dare not read others’ work while they’re drafting, for fear they’ll compromise their own style. Reading good work inspires me and has never really taken over my own voice, but I get that it could. While you let your drafted novel “cool off” why not take the opportunity to catch up on that TBR pile sitting on your bedside table?
I recommend a combination of contemporary work and writing resources. You can bone up on your craft with writing technique or inspiration books such as Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, Stephen King’s On Writing or anything by Donald Maass. Then grab a couple of recent novels and as you read, try to observe how the stuff in the resource books either is played out or ignored. Analyzing another writer’s fiction is a great way to add to your own skills and develop your own voice.
Take note of things such as how scenes are constructed, the ratio of scene to narrative or ways in which the writer conveys emotion. Some of my favorites this year have been Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate and Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg.
The second easy way to rest your NaNo is to write . . . something completely different! If you’ve never tried nonfiction, write a straight news article or feature. If you’re flummoxed by poetry, challenge yourself to a bunch or haikus or silly limericks. The point here is to reset your writer’s mind away from the pedal-to-the-metal of NaNo and back to your center of creativity.
As you write, you can also read poems you like or find new poets to explore. Poetry has the unique ability to put forth ideas in the shortest form possible—a great exercise in writing tight. It forces you to distill your thoughts to the essence of what you want to say—a little like editing.
And don’t forget your roots. I started my writing for publication journey by writing short devotions, fillers and anecdotes. These are often the easiest ways to “break into print.” Practice writing from your life: helpful hints, op-eds, short articles about topics you care about. By exercising these ideas while your NaNo cools, you’ll expand your versatility and craft. You may even capture some cash, ink and bylines in the process.
The third easy way to rest your NaNo draft is by refocusing your energy toward the short term. Novels are lengthy projects and writers often spend years writing, rewriting, seeking agents and finding a publisher. But what about now? All ink is good ink, the old saw goes, so maximize your name recognition while you are still working on that book. Take some of your short writing (freelance articles, Chicken Soup stories, fillers, and poems) and refresh your submission skills.
You can get a marketing book like Writer’s Digest or find websites which list guidelines for submission. Study these markets and be sure they accept freelance. List possibilities in order of prestige or circulation (The New York Times will be tougher than your local paper). Learn or relearn how to write a query and cover letter. Challenge yourself to submit a certain number of pieces each month. Keep track of your submissions and when you get a rejection, send it to the next publication on your list.
If submitting freelance is too daunting, try contests. You can find lists of writing contests online. Just be sure to follow the entry instructions and submit only to legitimate contests. I think it’s OK to pay an entry fee of up to about $25. After that, it sounds risky.
Rest your NaNo novel for at least a month, possibly longer. When you return to the manuscript, you’ll see your work with fresh eyes, and I hope the ability to sort out problems in your edits. But while your NaNo novel takes a vacay, you can read, write and submit your way to a better writing craft.