It is the beginning of December and for those of us who NaNoWriMo’d that means we have made it to the end! Congratulations to those who met the goal of 50K words or beyond. To any of you who did not quite make it, this is truly one of those times when you get props for making the attempt and better luck next year.
The rush of counting down those last words or those last steps until you make your goal is addicting. Being done is wonderful! Then there is the temptation to rush to send it to an editor or god forbid trying to publish it. But the most important thing to do next is
Take a breather. Go do something else. Connect with family. Binge watch a show. Clean. Sleep! Anything but what you were doing. Don’t be stingy, give yourself enough time for a real breather. The manuscript or project will still be there, just like you left it. Except now you have fresh eyes and clear mind to look at your work again.
After you have given yourself a break, there is one more step that you should do. This is one I pull from my experience as a software engineer and the software life cycle. This is how you get more out of your hard work.
Evaluate the performance. What does that mean, especially with writing? With software you are usually evaluating the performance of the application, but you are also evaluating the whole process of development. With writing you are not evaluating the words, but your writing process.
Take time to look back at what you have accomplished. Did you meet your goal? What worked well? What do you need to improve? By taking a moment to be introspective and review your efforts you can greatly improve your work and yourself.
For example, this is my eighth year of doing NaNoWriMo and I did make the 50K goal. I have one year I did not complete the required words, so every year I do manage to make it is a pat on the back. Looking back after a breather, I find that my storytelling has grown immensely, with a depth of character that surprised me. I am now inspired to continue to work on this story due to that success.
This introspection also showed me that I need to grow in two areas. I still struggle with having dialogue that flows. Moving forward I will be looking for articles and help in that area. I also need to improve my work/life balance because to be honest I did most of my words in the last three days. It is nice to know that if my life depended on it, I can whip out 15k words in a day but I don’t want to do that again. But now I know what to spend my time focusing on to grow as a writer.
We often push ourselves or get caught up in the moment and rush to the next whatever. But by stopping and giving our brains a chance to rest, then looking at our work and ourselves we actually improve more so than by just pushing forward blindly.
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