What to do when you outgrow NaNoWriMo
Well, NaNoWriMo has been underway for nearly a week. For many, NaNoWriMo is the first taste they have of serious writing. It both opens you up to your own ability as a writer and gives you a community of like-minded people.
But after four years of NaNoWriMo participation, I find that I’m in a new place as a writer. I’ve published eight books with several more in the works. The first year I did NaNoWriMo, writing 1,667 words in a day seemed almost impossible. Now I consider it a bad writing day if I don’t at least double that.
So what’s an author to do when winning NaNoWriMo doesn’t seem like much of an accomplishment anymore?
The first and most obvious answer is to not participate. To wish others well on their NaNoWriMo journey and then return to your own, pausing for a moment to savor fond (or maybe not-so-fond) memories of writing angst and camaraderie.
There’s nothing wrong with saying this isn’t for me anymore. But for those who still wish to participate, here are some ideas below on how to do so.
1. Decide what you want to gain from NaNoWriMo
In my opinion, there are two benefits from participating in NaNoWriMo. The first and most obvious is that it pushes you to achieve things that seem hard. The second is the camaraderie—discussing your word count, strategies, writing hardships, and successes with others. Which of these things is it that you wish to gain from NaNoWriMo? Both? Neither?
Knowing the answer to this question will help you decide how NaNoWriMo will best fit in with your new writing life.
2. Set a goal that fits
The “official” way to win NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words of a single novel in a month. But what if you’re already regularly doing that or more? If you determined that your reason for participating was that you wanted NaNoWriMo to push you beyond your current limits, you need to set a new goal. I’ve listed some ideas below, but they’re just suggestions. Let me know what your goal is down in the comments.
Alternative NaNoWriMo Goals:
- Write more—obviously, one way to take NaNoWriMo to the next level is to set a higher word count goal. How about writing 70k words in a month? Or 100k?
- Write AND edit a novel—the traditional goal is to finish a first draft. What if you up the ante and edit it, too? Make your goal getting your book ready for publication or submission!
- Schedule social media blasts or blog posts—do you have trouble keeping up with your blog or Facebook page? Why not write and schedule them for the entire year?
- Edit a previous novel—If you’re a working writer, you probably have deadlines, which means one of the reasons you can’t do NaNoWriMo is that you have to edit an existing project. So make that you’re goal! One edited page equals 250 words.
And if you’re worried about ‘changing’ the official goal, just know that there are others who do it every year. They’re called rebels.
My revised goal this year is to write and edit a 30k word book, and write the rough draft of a 20k book. In addition to that, I want to have blog posts scheduled for the next three months.
3. Join in the fun
If, on the other hand, what you enjoy from NaNoWriMo is the community, feel free to set up a NaNoWriMo account… even if you don’t intend to keep up with it. Participate in Word Sprints, the forums, or whatever it is that you love about NaNoWriMo (personally, I love to keep up with other WriMos on Facebook—including in The Writersaurus Group. Consider this your invitation to join!)
Trust me, other WriMos will appreciate your presence, even if you aren’t really trying to win.
Note: Just don’t let this interfere with completing your real-life writing goals!
What about you? How do you make sure NaNoWriMo is helping you achieve your goals? Let me know in the comments!