Post-NaNoWriMo: The End is the Beginning

thumbI did it. I conquered NaNoWriMo with a few days to spare, aided in part by vacation and in part by a sickness that kept me home from my day job for two half days and one full day. The benefit of writing as an occupation (or preoccupation) is that you can do it even when you are sick. There are many writers who talk about writing every day. Stephen King famously writes every day (although I call bullshit on how strict he claims to be about it). Other writers have said every day except for Christmas. There is a range of scribe diets out there, but it is possible to write well when you are ill. You are sitting down. You can take breaks when needed, and you don’t have to worry about getting anyone sick.

Aided by medication and sheer willpower, I finished my novel, writing between four and five thousand words each day towards the end. I am happy with the first draft, overall. It clocked in at right around 54,000 words. It’s more the skeleton for the book than the book itself. I started out as a screenwriter. I tend to be a bit too sparse on description and sensory experience. I go back during the rewrites and flesh all of that out. The final book will probably be closer to 70,000 words, which is a good length.

I like where the story went. It took some turns that I didn’t really expect, and there is a lot of work to do to clean up that mess and make it all work together. I’m not happy with the way I used present tense, and I changed a character’s gender about a third of the way in, which will be messy. Not to mention, this is a Lovecraftian novel, and the guy didn’t exactly pick common names for his deities. I can’t wait to see what a travesty I made of some of those names.

That being said, December will not be a time to revise this book. I like to leave some distance between the first draft and my revisions. It helps me to see the book from a more neutral place and not fill in gaps automatically. I have several short stories that I would like to revise, as well as a novel and a novella from previous NaNoWriMos.

The hardest part about NaNoWriMo, I think, isn’t November, but December. In November, you power through the draft by thinking that December 1st is just around the corner. Then you get to December and lose some of that steam. That’s fine. It is bound to happen, but I think the goal should be to lose less of that steam every year and carry that momentum forward in to a writing habit that will foster your creative productivity until next November. Easier said than done, but I am going to give it a shot.

There will be short stories to write, and I have half a novel from a previous half-NaNo. Then, there will be revisions. Endless, tedious revisions that will remind me that the real work of writing isn’t getting the words on the page, but getting them to make sense to anyone else.

Today, however, I can bask in the bliss of victory, knowing that I accomplished a goal, and that I have once again earned the right to be called an author. With that, I wave goodbye to Very Dangerous People, with the promise that I will return to it again, when I reach another end that demands another beginning.

Jack Campbell, Jr. is a dark fiction writer in Lawrence, KS. His writing has appeared in various venues including Twenty 3 Magazine, Danse Macabre, and Insomnia Press. He writes about reading, writing, and life on his blog at

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