What To not Do When NaNoWriMo Ends

Writers across the globe spent a frenzied month neglecting their laundry, sneaking writing time at lunch, and compulsively checking their word counts. Whether you won, lost, or didn’t participate at all, here’s what NOT to do the day after NaNoWriMo ends.

I always sign up for NaNoWriMo, even when that nagging voice in my head (or the reality on my calendar) says that there is little chance I’ll finish 50K this month because of other deadlines, illness, travel, or family commitments. I’ve finished 50K several years, but not this one. It’s okay. Any new words, revised words, or learning that has moved me toward my writing goals are wins.

3 Things NOT to Do When NaNoWriMo Ends

If you find yourself exhausted from the NaNoWriMo frenzy, here are a few things NOT to do in the aftermath today.

1. Don’t give up

I often finish a thirty-day challenge and think, “I’ve earned a day off. I’ll start again tomorrow or next week.” Then I wake up six years later and wonder where the time has gone.

In a Paris Review interview, author Haruki Murakami described the importance of a daily routine for writers when he said, “The repetition itself becomes the important thing.”

Small daily progress yields a large increase over time. Open your current project or a new one and write today, even if it’s only a hundred words. Keep your momentum going.

NaNoWriMo is just the start of your daily writing habit. Don’t stop writing!

2. Don’t ignore the lessons learned

The first time I completed NaNoWriMo, I wrote a terrible, sprawling YA time-travel-coming-of-age-mystery-thriller novel (No, that’s not a marketable genre). I pantsed the whole thing and it was a mess. I tried to straighten out the story several times in revision, and I even paid for help from a editor.

We ended up scrapping the existing structure and nearly 40,000 words. I emerged with a cast of terrific characters, two scenes, and a ton of knowledge about what did and didn’t work for me as a writer. It was painful, but probably necessary to learn what I needed to learn.

Take a minute to reflect on your experience. Consider the act of writing as well as the story you produced. When you were most energized? What obstacles slowed you down?

Think about which scenes worked and which ones sagged. Notice patterns and plan to practice intentionally to reach your goals this week.

3. Don’t crawl back into the cave

My favorite part of NaNoWriMo is the community spirit it engenders. Keep in contact with those who inspire you to keep following your dream. Find a group that will cheer you, challenge you, and hold you accountable.

Encourage a writer to keep going, and you’ll find you’re inspired as well.

The Secret of NaNoWriMo

Here’s the thing: the last day of NaNoWriMo isn’t the end. It’s the beginning.

Back to the quills and keyboards!

Did you participate in NaNoWriMo? What are you planning to do today to progress toward your goals? Share in the comments!


Keep the NaNoWriMo momentum going! Pick one of the following prompts and take fifteen minutes to write.

  1. Finished NaNoWriMo, but still dreaming of your story? Take your characters on a mini-adventure and write a short story about their exploits.
  2. Started NaNoWriMo, but didn’t make it to the end of your story? Pick up that work in progress, and keep at it!
  3. Don’t have a work in progress, or need a break from your NaNoWriMo novel? Write a new story based on this prompt: a character totally meant to keep that promise they made . . . but they definitely broke it, and badly.

When you’re done, share your practice in the box below. Be sure to comment on your fellow writers’ pieces!

Enter your practice here: