NaNoWriMo is over… now what?

On the 28th of November, I completed NaNoWriMo with 50,629 words. This was, by quite a margin, the most I’d ever written on any one story or project.

In the days coming up to the end, I thought I wasn’t going to feel much when I reached that milestone. Because the truth is, as I’m sure most of you other NaNoWriMoers understand, the end of NaNo is by no means the end. It is an achievement in itself, but what I have now is not even a first draft, it’s a partial draft at best.

I surprised myself by becoming emotional when I crossed the finishing line, though. I rang my boyfriend, and nearly had a bit of a cry. But this feeling really only lasted a few hours.

The thing about NaNo is – yes, it got me writing. Yes, it proved to me that I can write 50,000 words on a story I had done minimal planning on and wasn’t even that passionate about. It might have even been the cause of a few decent paragraphs, though I think most of the 50,000 words are really not particularly well strung together.

But what it didn’t do: it didn’t make me feel like a writer.

The problem is, I have this idea in my head of the person I want to be when I’m older. Or, well, the person I would quite like to be now, but it doesn’t seem quite realistic yet. It’s not as simple as a list of things I can lay down here – more than anything, it’s a feeling. Contentedness is one word I could use to try to describe it. Wholeness. Satisfaction. And I think I have equated being a writer with feeling that way.

It’s kind of like when, years ago, I was smoking about 5 cigarettes a day (and a lot, lot more when I was drinking) but I didn’t ever feel like a smoker. I would never have described myself as a smoker. But by anyone’s definition, I was a smoker.

Perhaps it’s the lack of commitment, the fact that I’m not doing it full-time, or the fact that I’m not squeezing it around a different full-time career. Perhaps it’s because the rest of my life, to be honest, is a little empty right now. I don’t necessarily mean that it a very maudlin way – it’s just the honest truth. I rattle around a little in my own life these days.

Or maybe a month does not a writer make. Maybe if I continue with this, now, and continue to get better at it, I will start to feel more genuine. If I start to enjoy it more, maybe.

That’s another thing that may be contributing to this feeling. I enjoyed it, to an extent, but not as much as I would have hoped. I didn’t spring out of bed every morning, eager to get back to my story. It didn’t make me feel happy and fulfilled.

So what now? I’m certainly not giving up just because November didn’t turn me into a different person. I’m taking a few weeks’ break from writing, and then I’ll either keep going with the NaNo novel or go back to the one I was writing before. And hopefully, in a few weeks, I will realise that it actually did change me.

I will finish the novel at some point, anyway, and maybe then the satisfaction will flood in. Or does it ever? Maybe that’s the problem with art – it never feels finished.

Anyway, turning point or not, it’s been an experience. And it’s done me a lot of good to actually follow through with something, as I’m notorious for never finishing projects. Here’s to the next few months and the rest of my writing career.

I hope all of you fellow NaNoers are similarly satisfied with your achievement – and maybe a bit more satisfied with how it’s made you feel!


28 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo is over… now what?

  1. I didn’t do NaNo again this year, too many other commitments going on unfortunately. For you though the hard work is about to begin: editing. A necessary evil that will have you pulling your hair out in frustration at times.

    Best of luck, I truly hope you continue writing.

  2. Congrats on the 50,000 words plus. You should be very proud! I didn’t make it but that doesn’t stop me from writing. I’ve a lot of preposterous ideas about writers. One idea that’s difficult for me to shake is if I’m not leaping about when I write or if I don’t have an enlightened moment when I’m writing then something is wrong. This can be very difficult to shake. Things like if you don’t enjoy it, don’t do it come to mind, but sometimes writing is a tough slog – full of ups and downs. A lot like life and there are times I hate writing and the amount of conflict I feel when I write or don’t write is so overwhelming. Should I feel this way or that way?

    Everyone has their reasons for writing or conditions they place upon themselves. I try to pull away from expectations or aspirations I have when writing and try to distance myself (a difficult thing to do). Sometimes feelings are what stops me from letting loose when I write. I think NaNo helps to rid writers of restrictions and boundaries they place on themselves. It allows one to be freer and encourages writers to leave their feelings at the door, so to speak, and write. Thought I’d reply to your post as it made me think. Have a great weekend!

    • Oh I know exactly what you mean about not writing unless you feel really inspired. For me, November was partly about battling through that and making myself write anyway. You’re right, there are a lot of ups and downs. I imagine it’s possible to only write when you feel inspired to, and still be satisfied with your output, and actually finish things – but I’d say it’d be a much slower process.

      I think I’m still working on the pulling away from expectations and aspirations! Letting loose – it would be nice to be able to do that completely. Maybe with more practice! I’m glad you shared your thoughts! 🙂

  3. Sounds to me like Nano turned you into a perfect writer: you’re worried about never feeling satisfied or whole but are dedicated to keep writing. As soon as you’re content, you won’t be driven to write anymore.

    That said, finishing a whole novel, not just a draft, does offer a nice sense of completion and accomplishment that lasts more than a couple hours, so I wish you lots of luck as you continue on with the project!

    • Haha, wonderful theory – you’re probably right! And paradoxically, if I wasn’t driven to write anymore, I wouldn’t be content for very long either.

      Thanks for the good wishes – yes I do hope that maybe 20-30k more words down the line it will feel a little more satisfying! I’m probably going to start up again with it this week, and see how it goes. 🙂

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  5. I enjoy your honesty, your introspection. As a part-time writer, I know that there were several times when I felt that I had become a writer, that I could write about anything, that I was up for any challenge. Those brief periods occurred after long stretches of regular writing. Generally, I write when it comes to me; I have poor discipline. I’ve finished two and a half novels, but I can’t say I feel proud or self-realized by them. Writing is an occupation, a vocation. We’re all looking for something special in life. That special aspect is present at all times, and you can find it anytime.

    • Thank you! Oh, yes, I’ve experienced very brief periods of those kind of feelings – and I’ve always suspected, as you suggest, that the more I write the more frequent they will become. Two and a half novels is certainly a great accomplishment, but I imagine I’ll feel similarly to you if I get to the same position!

      I like your idea that the special aspect is always present for us to find it – in a way, it’s all to do with our perspective on life. Sometimes it feels like pure change, a particular brain chemical coming along or a series of events that give us that fleeting moment of satisfaction.

  6. I get like this after NaNo too. I think Baty calls it the post-Nano blues. But enjoy your success in which ever way you want and at the end of the day, make sure you’ve written some more. National Novel Writing Month is just in recognition of what we do all year long. Remember the ‘good’ writing comes after you’ve ‘finished.’

    • Yes, a sort of postnatal depression! I thought of it as being a bit like that myself. Thanks for much for the encouragement! After a week, I’m feeling a bit more confident that I can draw something special out of it in the rewriting. 🙂

  7. Congrats on the 50,000. I didn’t feel extremely excited after finishing either. In the mad rush of finishing I began to loose sight of the end of my story and now I don’t really know where to go with it, all I know is that I am going to finish it even if the ending is crap… I go back and forth between feeling like a writer to not feeling like a writer also. I try to keep those thoughts out of my mind though and just keep going.

    • Thanks, congrats to you too! All that sounds very familiar, alright. Did you keep going straight away into December? I haven’t touched it yet, but I think I’m going to go back to it this week, to fill in the gaps and start thinking about how to make it somewhat decent. 🙂

      • I actually haven’t touched it yet, I am a little bit ashamed but I figured I’d catch up on some reading and let the story simmer for a bit. I was thinking about getting back to it this week as well! Good luck, I know I have a lot of work to do on this story but I think fresh eyes will be what it needs.

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  9. If you look at writing stories in a similar way to building houses, perhaps you could gauge where that 50,000 words is up to. Are the architect’s plans submitted and approved? Is the slab poured? Is the frame up? Is the roof on? Is the house at lock up stage? You may not be finished, but at least you’ve made a big start. Many writers are still looking for the plot (pun intended).

    • Lovely metaphor, I agree with Taidgh! And yes, I’ve been trying to cultivate that attitude for the past week. I think mostly it just seems surreal – a sort of invisible ghost house that I haven’t really realised I’ve built! Once I go back to sort out the roof and the glazing, it might start to sink in. 🙂

  10. It’s true – we are very far from the end. But it’s already a start and you have more than what you had in October. I’m not giving up on my novel either… so now, time for maybe a second draft and editing! 🙂 Good luck!

  11. Good for you on finishing. From my experience, you’ll be a writer when you decide to be. When you believe it. For me, it wasn’t any one action, it was thinking it true. Saying it out loud (awkwardly, at first), and then continuing to say it and to write–not every day, but always making writing and writing-related activities a part of my life. I have never done NaNoWriMo because I didn’t want writing my first novel to be a chore. I wanted to write at my own pace and, for the most part, enjoy it.

    • Thanks! I really like that idea – I’d say you’re right. It’s all been so sudden that it doesn’t feel real – and maybe once it becomes something that I actually do a lot of on a regular basis over a period of time, I will finally decide that I am one!

      Funny that you say that about it being a chore – that’s pretty much why I decided to take a different plot rather than the one I’ve been nurturing for years. My NaNo novel has been kind of like a warm-up, I think – and my other novel will always be my true first novel, I think. I’d say once I start writing again, I’ll go back to my original novel before I polish the NaNo one.

      I think I needed the proof that I could actually write the 50,000 words before I could really get going as a writer – and maybe that proof will become more valuable to me as it all sinks in more – or as I turn back to my previous writing with the knowledge that I can definitely do it. 🙂

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