Reentry and Giving Yourself a Break
~ By Melina Kantor
We hear it all the time.
Want to be a writer? Write.
Writers write every day.
And of course, all of that is true.
But I’ve got to confess something. I just finished a first draft of a story. I sat my butt down and put my hands on the keyboard for several hours for 29 days and won NaNoWriMo.
For a month, my dogs were neglected. My refrigerator was empty. My nice gel manicure slowly peeled off, leaving me with broken nails.
I was exhausted.
And people were talking about starting revisions on December 1st.
Ha! You know what I said to that?
“Uh, no. Don’t do that.” (And not because those overachievers were making me look bad.)
Now, before you read my advice, I’ll give the standard spiel about how what works for one writer (me) may not work for you (hi!), and to always take writing advice with a grain of salt.
The next phase of your noveling process is of course up to you, but here’s my humble yet very strong opinion.
Author Lani Diane Rich, the first previously unpublished author to publish a book written during NaNo, advises waiting six weeks before starting the revision process. She compares those six weeks to letting bread dough rise.
Why? Well, any form of a writing marathon lacks one thing that your stories desperately need.
She’s right. Trying to work with dough before it has risen enough is really, really a pain. The final product may be good enough, but probably dense and kind of chewy and just not right. But if you wait, forming a nice, neat loaf (or braid) is much less painful, and the final product is much more pleasant to eat.
The same goes for your stories. When you finish a first draft, give your eyes, your brains, and your bodies a well-deserved break and put those stories away. When you come back to a draft after six weeks (or whenever is good for you), you’ll weave the “dough” you formed into a tight, neat story that’ll be smoother for you and your readers.
That said, if you let your dough rise too long, you can end up with an airy mess that’s almost impossible to work with.
It’s okay to step away from your story. Use the time to think about your novel, make collages, use pictures from IMDB to “cast” your novel, and listen to your playlist. If you miss writing, write something completely different from what you normally write, like an essay or short story.
Feed your muse by reading and watching TV and movies.
Even if you don’t do any writing-related tasks for a while, your story will stay in your brain, taking care of itself. (Think of your story as a stew and your brain as a slow cooker).
Meanwhile, see your friends and family. Give your pets some love. Curl up under a blanket. Drink tea. Go out and do things that make you happy.
Get that manicure.
And get some sleep.
Don’t feel guilty. Don’t compare yourself to other writers who are still at their keyboards. You just wrote a novel. At the moment, you have nothing to prove.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder. You know that when you go back to your story, you’ll be mentally and physically stronger, ready for an efficient and hopefully quick revision battle.
One more thing. As you face “reentry” into the real world, don’t forget about your accomplishments. Use that feeling of pride to fuel everything you’ve got going on.
Enjoy the ride!
Melina writes contemporary romance with a pinch of oregano and a dash of chutzpah. She loves to travel, especially to her family’s village in Crete, and turn her adventures into research for her novels.
In July of 2012, she moved from New York to Jerusalem with her adorable but sneaky cocker spaniel. Her family now includes an incredibly sweet yet troubled rescue puppy.
Melina likes the color pink, baking, daffodils, teaching girls to code, running her small business, learning to use power tools, practicing self-defense, Krav Maga and karate, and breaking cinder blocks with her fist.
She has been freakishly dedicated to and enthusiastic about NaNoWriMo for over ten years, and enjoys acting as a Co Municipal Liaison for Jerusalem.
You can visit her at http://melinakantor.com.