Finish Your Nanowrimo Novel – Part 1: Keep the Fire

You made it — your 30 days of literary abandon are finally over! Whether you made it to 50,000 words or not, you started a novel that you now need to finish. And how exactly do you do that?

I’ve decided to put a couple blogs together to hopefully give you some pointers. I’ve shelved one or two of my Nanowrimo novels, never to be seen again. But I’ve also finished quite a few novels, too — some of them I started during Nanowrimo, some of them I didn’t. Two of them I’ve finished during Nanowrimo (I was a rebel, okay, don’t tell anyone!).

I think the two things that Nano-ers face after November 30th is:
1. Losing the fire of Nanowrimo.
2. Not knowing where to take their novel or how exactly to end it.

So, I have three parts to this blog series:
Part 1: Keep the Fire (how to keep writing and how not to lose motivation)
Part 2: Move It Along (how to move your story through the plot)
Part 3: Find the End (how to wrap everything up into that climactic, satisfying ending)

And because I love lists, that’s how these are structured. Everyone loves lists, right? Let’s get started on this one!


    This is the MOST important thing. I know you’re tired. I know you probably never want to write again, but that is the only way you can finish this novel. Try these tricks to keep upping your word count:

    1. Write for 15-minute spurts at the beginning of every hour. This works if you don’t have very much time, or if you’re also struggling with other things (homework, housework, etc). Whenever the hour starts over, give your story 15 minutes of attention.

    2. Track your progress. Seeing your word count go up can be very motivating. It makes you feel like your words have a real purpose. The Nanowrimo website isn’t taking updated word counts, anymore, but you can still track your progress! Use a word count widget (here’s a list of 13 of them) or use a spreadsheet on your computer. (Of course, you may not track word count at all, but scenes or chapters or movement in the plot.)

  • 2. Find others. Trust me, you are not the only person who doesn’t plan on shelving their November words and never looking at them again. There are a lot of people out there who want to finish what they started. The trick is finding them.

    The most obvious place would be the Nanowrimo message boards. Try your regional forum, look in the “December & Beyond” area of the forum and find others who are dedicated to finishing. Part of the Nano appeal is the group of people who are writing with you — don’t lose that encouragement and inspiration! There are Nanowrimo participants on nearly every writing board out there. If there’s not a thread for them already, start one! Tell them you want to find writers to hang out with while you finish your novel.
  • 3. Make a new goal. One of the reasons Nanowrimo is so exciting is because of the goal you’re shooting for: 50,000 words! Only 1,667 words a day! But now your new goal is: Finish the novel. Because novels are unpredictable, you may have no idea how many words you still need to finish. It’s not as quantifiable as the 50,000 words, but having a new, clear goal with a deadline can help you to your novel’s finish line.

    If you’re a planner, it will probably be easier for you to make a quantifiable goal. If you know where your story is going and how you’re going to get to the ending, then all you need is to write those scenes you’ve already outlined. Your new goal could be something like, ‘Write a scene a day.’

    If you’re a panster, it might be easier to stick with word goals. You don’t know exactly how many words are left (though, as I’ll expand on in the next part, your story will probably be following a certain sequence of action that nearly every well-plotted book has) or how exactly your story will end. So maybe your goal will be 1500 or 2000 words a day.

    When do you want to finish this novel by? Everyone will be on a different timeline. The two main things that come to play in this is how long your novel will be by the end and how quickly you write readable prose. Sally may have 50,000 of a YA novel, and she may only need 20-25,000 words left. Sally could keep writing 1500 words a day and finish by December 15th.

    But Bob may have only gotten about 20,000 words into an epic fantasy novel. Bob has more to write, but he writes slower so it will take him longer. Bob’s finishing goal may be the end of April. Unless he wanted to push himself and write 1000 words a day instead of 666. Then he could probably set his goal around around the end of February or beginning of March.

    My tip for making this new goal (both the deadline and the actual daily/weekly quote) would be not to go much lower than you did in November. I don’t mean the Nanowrimo criteria of 1,667 words a day for 30 days, I mean your quota. If you did 500 words a day for 30 days, then you know you can do 500 words a day. Keep doing that! It’s the same story with 3000 words every other day–don’t give yourself a goal of doing 500 words a day when you know you can so more.

    Obviously, you can go a little lax, but don’t do something that is too easy. Do something that will still push you. If you do a ridiculously low or easy goal, you may relax into that thinking that, oh, you can just do it tomorrow because it’s not that much. Don’t sink into the mentality of taking a break on the novel. FINISH IT WHILE THE FIRE IS STILL HOT. And if the fire isn’t hot, fan those flames!

A lot of people start thinking about the last 30 days and convince themselves that their novel sucks. Don’t let that way of thinking crowd your mind! Write a list of all the things you LIKE about your novel. Dream about what it could be if you finished it. You can revise it all you want (and I’ll have an ebook to help you!) but right now, focus on finishing it.

So before I post the next part on Tuesday, ideally, you’ll have:
– Writer friends who are in the same boat as you. People who can be your cheerleaders.
– A way to track your progress.

And you should definitely have:
– A new goal. Are you going to do a scene a day? A chapter a week? Are you going to write 500 words a day? 5000 words a week? When do you want to have this novel finished by? December 31st? February 14th?

On Tuesday, I’ll be back with Part 2: Move It Along. We’ll look at the basic structure of a plot and you can see where your story is and what needs to happen next.

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