What to Do After NaNoWriMo: 9 Steps to Take

Another year, another NaNoWriMo! If you're one of the hundred thousand-plus writers who participate, you’re likely familiar with the duelling qualities of chaos and accomplishment that accompany you through the month ... and equally familiar with the post-NaNoWriMo slump.

You may feel exhausted, out of touch with how it feels not to be galloping towards a daily word goal with a global community cheering you on.

What's a writer to do?

Writing 50,000 words in a month is a whopper of a challenge, and it’s tricky to shift from being in the thick of NaNoWriMo to once again carrying on with everyday life.

Roll in the fact that the final days toss you straight into the holiday season and there’s even more to sort through, if it's a festive time of year for you.

As you come to the end of NaNoWriMo, here are nine steps to help you figure out what to do next, so you can corral the creative chaos and focus on whatever is most important to you as the year comes to a close!

Step 1 | Schedule a date to revisit your NaNo project

Despite the best intentions to set your project aside for a while, if you don’t have a date in mind, it’s all too likely you’ll think, “Is today the day? Should I do it now? Is this too soon? Have I waited too long?”

There is no perfect “set aside” time for writing, so don’t overthink this. Choose an amount of time that (1) felt right for a past project or (2) is at least a month away, past the chaos of the holidays.

Once you’ve picked a date, set a reminder for it. This could be in an app on your phone, a paper planner, or a sticky note on your desk.

Step 2 | Write down any lingering thoughts

If anything is still on your mind about this project, this is the best possible time to write it down.

Whether it’s an idea for a sequel, a character to revamp on a rewrite, or a poisoning method that needs further research, write it all down in one place. If you already have a system for organizing work-in-progress notes, be sure to incorporate these ideas.

When you come back to your NaNoWriMo project in the future, this list will be one of your greatest assets, because it offers a roadmap.

A roadmap is an incredibly valuable tool to have when returning to a WIP that hasn’t seen the light of day for a while, as it lessens the “Where do I start?” feeling.

Step 3 | Take time to recover

Whether you wrote 50,000 words or achieved a different goal, NaNoWriMo is a journey of epic proportions, so your recovery should be treated accordingly.

However much time you can allow yourself before returning to The Real World, use it for taking care of yourself, marathon-watching a TV show, playing video games, or eating whatever food makes your heart sing.

Step 4 | Rejuvenate and revitalize

Speaking of recovery, let’s not forget that NaNoWriMo can take a toll on your body, as well, especially if you wrote for longer periods of time than you’re used to.

Hopefully you found time to stretch and decrumple in the midst of NaNo, but if not, now is the second-best time to (re)commit to whatever makes your body feel nourished, be it a gentle hike through a local conservation area, a brisk workout in your living room, or soothing stretches from your chair.

Step 5 | Celebrate the journey

Before pulling up anchor and sailing, full speed ahead, into the next steps, or even the next writing adventure, be sure to celebrate the journey you've just undertaken. This is an amazing accomplishment!

No matter how full of holes and waterlogged your NaNoWriMo ship is, the main thing is you made it into port. Whether it's a few minutes spent in quiet satisfaction or a Zoom party with your writing buddies, acknowledge how far you've come and how much you accomplished.

Step 6 | Reflect on the creative journey

Do a bit of journaling about your NaNoWriMo experience for some insight into creative habits.

Did you have better luck on days when you wrote in the morning or at night? At your local café or curled up on your bed? At a write-in with other NaNo’ers, or on your own?

Did pushing through to the word goal each day make you feel more creative or less?

What did you learn about your writing habits that you could use or adapt in the future?

Read more: Discovering the World's Best Writing Guide

Step 7 | Declutter the NaNoWriMo chaos

Anything done in a flurry tends to leave chaos in its wake. Whether it’s a pile of laundry that could pass for a Hobbit house or a forest of sticky notes with reminders for your NaNo project, take time to put everything to rights.

Catch up on languishing chores. Recycle bits of paper with redundant notes. Delete that half-written scene on your phone that never went anywhere.

On the practical side, this clears the way for holiday baking, get-togethers with loved ones, and planning for the new year.

On the mindful side, refreshing your environment helps refresh you, something sorely needed after a gargantuan undertaking like NaNoWriMo!

Step 8 | Reconnect with what’s on the backburner

Which activities occupied a lower tier on your list of priorities during NaNoWriMo? Did you cut back on watching TV? Did you set your knitting projects to one side? Did you tuck your free weights into the closet?

Whatever these activities are, it’s time to reconnect, though it may not happen all at once. Reincorporating these things into your life might be a gradual process.

This is also a perfect opportunity to look at these activities in a new light, now that you’ve temporarily distanced yourself from them.

Did you truly miss all those TV shows, or just one in particular? Is knitting still your first fibre love, or are you itching to give crochet a try? Were those free weights still cutting the cake, or is it time to add something new, like a barre class, into your fitness repertoire?

Step 9 | Look forward to new delights

For some of us, one of the best parts about NaNoWriMo being in November is having the festive season to look forward to in December. If you're feeling downcast about no longer having the story to work on every day, honour that feeling – your writing will still be there, waiting for you, when you're ready – and then try shifting your focus to things like holiday baking with your family, picking the knitting project you’ll cast on on Christmas Eve, or getting your bullet journal ready for the new year.

If December is a difficult time of year for you, that, too, should be honoured. Perhaps taking care of yourself needs to be your main priority, or, if you feel up to it, you could plan a new creative project. Maybe your "return to" date for this NaNoWriMo story, the one you decided on in Step 1, will come up all the sooner!

While I wrote this with NaNoWriMo in mind, these steps could easily work for any creative project with a tough deadline.

As someone who's undertaken several intense creative challenges in the past, I speak from experience – these steps are a beautiful way to honour your hard work while making space in your heart and mind for what's next.

Happy writing, creative soul, and well done for all your hard work!

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