Friday, December 6, 2013

Dealing With NaNo Burnout

As happy as I am with my word count for NaNo 2013, there's still a "but." The same thing happened last year -- I'm suffering from NaNo burnout.

It's not as bad this year because I'm not sick as a dog like I was last year. Still, I'm definitely feeling the burnout factor. I opened up Contracted the other day, noodled a few plot notes, wrote a beginning of a scene and tried halfheartedly to continue it, but stopped. I could have pushed through and written more -- like I had to do for NaNo -- but, just, ugh. 

http://images1.wikia.nocookie.net/dumbledoresarmyroleplay/images/5/5d/Red_Ugh_Gif.gif

Part of the issue is that the motivation offered by NaNo is gone. I now have to self-motivate. I'm still very much invested in this wip, but I have no tangible goal to work towards. Perhaps this is why so many people quit writing -- with no reward in sight, they aren't as motivated to continue. Perhaps this is why NaNo is so helpful: it stresses finishing, and it gives you a reward when you do. 

(I'm glad that NaNo doesn't offer a participation prize, banner, or award. Participating is its own reward. Finishing -- which so many writers struggle with -- is different.)

I want to let Contracted marinate in my mind-juice for a week or two. I'm not worried about being burned out on it (or on writing) permanently. I would still like to offer some humble suggestions for dealing with NaNoWriMo burnout, such as:

1. It is ok not to write. 

No. Really. I mean it. Give yourself a break. If the idea of pulling up your wip makes you want to scratch out your eyeballs and/or sob in despair, then don't force yourself to write just for the sake of doing it. That was what November was for. Set a timeline on your break: "I'm not going to look at this wip for a week." Or two. Or maybe even for all of December. Make December your "break month" if you have to.

2. Write something else.

If the idea of working on your NaNo wip fills you with dread, but you still want to write something, pick something else to work on. Start a new thing. Finish an old thing. Write some poetry, short stories, one-act plays, reviews, or blog posts (ah, the inevitable post-NaNo blogposts).

3. Play a creative game.

Play a role-playing game. Maybe it's a video game; maybe it's online or a tabletop game with friends. There are multiple gaming threads on the NaNo site: here, here, and here. 

To those of you whose eyebrows just shot up in scorn -- you know who you are -- my writing and plotting skills have improved drastically since I started gaming. Games run on conflict. They are basically a testing ground for any story arc you want to try out. You can always reload, start a new game, or scrap something. If you're playing a video game with a preexisting plot, then study how the writers built the world, the characters, and the plot. Play a game and learn how to "introduce a little anarchy" to your writing.

4. Edit something.

Editing is different enough from the writing skill required to NaNo that I don't find myself shuddering in horror at the prospect. In fact, diving back into something old and familiar sounds like a comforting break. And it still counts as work. You can edit your NaNo novel, I suppose, but I would prefer to return to something else.

5. Read.

Now that you have time to read instead of frantically writing, sit down with that book you've been meaning to get around to. You don't have to rush through it, either. Just enjoy it. Presumably you were introduced to writing through books. If you're bitter, exhausted, or burnt out on your own wip, sit down with someone else's book and remember what it's like to love a story.

2 comments:

  1. Good advice, all the way around. I finished my whole Nano novel, and I still feel burned out. I am thinking I will be going the "take December off" route myself. For my own sake, and for the sake of the manuscript. I think I will give it at least one revision, see if it floats, but not until January. Nor do I think I can jump into any new fiction writing before then.

    As for RPG, I have read about it and know people who do it, but I have never done it myself in the manner you are talking about. Not sure what exactly it entails, or where one goes to do it. But it might be something I look into in the future.

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    1. A lot of people go easy around the holiday season, whether or not they did NaNo. I've read that the winter months (in particular December) are the worst time to query, for instance.

      I have done some RPG on forums, but not for a while because the Internet is an annoying place. Mostly I stick to video games.

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