Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Post-NaNoWriMo Self Care

Since it’s already the new year, I know it’s a bit late in the game to be discussing post-NaNoWriMo self care. Additionally, it’s a little weird to be covering this topic, as it’s something I’ve never considered in the past, apart from my general practice of taking December off.

I’m just now discussing post-NaNo self care because I wanted to experience it for myself before jabbering about it to you. Talking about this year in reference to previous years is difficult because it’s like comparing completely-unrelated entities. Somewhere, over the course of 2018, my brain rebooted itself. So I can’t really say that a new approach would have been a game changer last year, only that it was a game changer this year.

This November, I paced myself, and yes, I wrote 121,121 words, and yes, towards the end I was starting to feel tired. But I had just gotten into the hang of writing every day, starting in late October, which you have probably already heard me talk about ad nauseam. I didn’t want to unlearn a good thing. So I allowed myself two days to read a book and absorb its beautiful, interesting prose during my normal writing time.

By December third, I was ready to go, but I was nervous about what I was going to write, since I wanted to let HIRAETH sit for a while. Then it occurred to me that blogging is totally a thing, that I do. So I could, you know, blog. (Sometimes my sheer brilliance astounds me.) I spent the next few days drafting and editing a small flurry of blog posts. After that, I spent a week with DRACONIAN, which was as long as I could stand, at which point I was already way tired of not working on HIRAETH. I also recognized, and I’m glad I did, that I was starting to get increasingly apprehensive about adding 10,000 words to HIRAETH to get it up to weight. The fear that I was going to mess the whole thing up with any additions, even necessary ones, was getting stronger, and I needed to act quickly.

Having added all that I needed to, I think I can say with confidence that there was no reason to be afraid. So we can all breathe a sigh of relief. I also know some of you are going to want to punch me for saying this, but you’re not allowed to punch me today, because it’s my birthday. As someone who is accustomed to drafting quickly, to whom 20,000 words isn’t that challenging, it was a strange experience to be daunted by the prospect of writing 10,000.

But, back to the topic of breaks. In years past, I think I have viewed my various writing projects through too narrow a lens. My custom was to take a month off between drafts, which was all well and good, but I didn’t work on other projects in the meantime. Part of it was that I needed some vacation time, which was fine. But a bigger part was my perceived need to stay exclusively in the world of my story. Maybe I had a more limited attention span at the time, and I just don’t remember how bad it was, or maybe I was imposing unnecessary strictures on my writing, but I was afraid that it would throw me off too much, editing multiple projects simultaneously—even though, as of November 2014, I knew that I could manage simultaneous drafting.

For those of you who are maybe not so knowledgable about writing, let me clarify why I was taking breaks between drafts. When you’ve finished a draft, it doesn’t matter which number, it’s advisable to let it sit for a while. Taking a step back lets you clear your mind a little—when you return to the draft, you see issues you had missed before, because after looking at something for too long, you stop seeing the details. If you’re trying to find a good rule of thumb for how long your breaks should be, you’ll find that numbers vary. Some authors recommend two to three months. Others say two weeks. Some authors, especially when on deadline, do drafts back to back, without any breaks at all. I have always felt like a month is the most natural amount of time for me, but I have no scientific backing for this. A month is as long as I can generally stand to wait, is maybe what I should say.

There’s nothing wrong with being monogamous in editing. But I think it contributed to my poor mental state over the past few years. I put all my hope in TIME IN A BOTTLE, because none of my other projects were even close to done. So I felt like I needed to get published with TIB, otherwise it would be at least a year before I was ready to start querying again, which felt like too much time for my teenage brain. The same with DRACONIAN, only worse, because it took so long to finish that one, and also because even though I was excited about it, I was also so discouraged by that point that I didn’t have all that much confidence it would work out. It put too much pressure on my individual novels. I could have used my various writing breaks to spread out the weight, to ease the collective load, like I sort of ended up doing with HIRAETH, which worked out amazing.

While HIRAETH is cooling its heels, I’m turning to blogging again for a change of pace. Turns out that when I’m tired of writing, I’m usually tired of a specific kind of writing, so switching things up is sometimes the same as taking a break.

I have also begun what I expect to become my next main project, which completely took me by surprise. The only thing I will tell you right now is that I have already written two thousand words of brainstorming and random scene drafting, as I work to get to know this thing. It’s a scary space story. HIRAETH is a scary space story too, but scary in a different way, I think. This one feels chilling. Not going to lie, even though I’m excited about this one, I don’t love writing rough drafts, and I am already looking forward to editing.

Oh, and let’s not forget my favorite type of writing. As I mentioned in my last post, I have begun work on the query letter and the synopsis for HIRAETH. *bangs head against keyboard* You know those people who write the summaries that get put on the inside flap of a book jacket? Those people are my heroes. They deserve free Starbucks for the rest of their illustrious lives. I don’t know what sort of magic goes on in their heads, but I am in awe of them. I will be posting more about query writing tomorrow, so I’ll leave it at that for today.

Long story short, I didn’t really do anything specific in the name of post-NaNo self care this year, but I did what I needed to maintain momentum and prevent burnout, and I’m happy with the results.

And also, it’s my birthday today, so feel free to use that as an excuse to treat yourself.


  1. The cooling off period between drafts is just as important as the editing itself, I think, because taking a break helps improve the quality of your edit. It's super necessary to leave the world of your story. Will the story stand the test of time? If you clear your head, dive into a different story, and return to the world, is the world still going to make sense? Is it still usable? Do you still love it? Is it still worth it? And I think we're often afraid to take a break because we're afraid that what we've created won't stand up to that, that our story really is trash. But we can't know until we leave it for a time. XD I've also taken too long a break between drafts, mostly because of college, and that's awful. The productivity rate is almost equivalent to taking no break at all. A month sounds like a good balance, and I'll probably try that next time I finish a draft.

    Good luck with the edits and querying!

  2. Happy belated birthday! I hope it was a great one and wishing you the best with revisions. If you need an extra set of eyes, let me know! I’d be happy to help. :)