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The month of December, or as it is more commonly known in the writing community, the month after NaNoWriMo, is a month of recuperation, recovery, and exhaustion. For me, it’s been a month filled with personal challenges, both writing-related and grievous. The death of a woman from my church leaves me reeling with regret and sorrow, questioning not my faith, but how I live it out and how I spend my days.

You see, I have a sense of urgency in my writing these days. At the end of March, I’ll be having my first child, and I fear that writing will take a back seat to parenting. While parenting is one of the most worthy professions in the world, I fear having to give up everything else that I hold dear, and abandoning my writing dreams. I know my time will be much more limited than it is now, and I fear using parenthood as an excuse to give up on my goals. And the death of this dear woman earlier this week has made me question whether I am spending my days wisely.

In turn, it leads me to consider one of my greatest passions: writing.

Am I doing enough each day to meet my goals? What are my goals? Am I setting goals? Are they achievable goals? How am I tracking my goals? Do I have a deadline in mind which gives me a sense of urgency and a timeline to accomplish these goals?

Those thoughts are one of the reasons that I have, for the first time, sought out another monthly challenge directly after NaNoWriMo. Usually, December is a month to take a break from the 50K words you so frantically wrote last month and to put them aside for later revision. However, there’s another event every year in December which I have never before participated in.

Martha Alderson, better known as The Plot Whisperer, holds an annual post-NaNo event each year. She has dubbed the month of December PlotWriMo, or Plot Writing Month.

As all true writers know, the first draft is never the finished draft. Often what comes out during NaNoWriMo (or other first drafting experiences) is a mess. There is a reason that writers refer to their first drafts as “crappy first drafts.”

What PlotWriMo does is post a task a day for you to complete. Today we’re on day 12, so we’ve had 12 “assignments” concerning last month’s novel. (I am actually using last year’s NaNo novel instead.) Some of these exercises have included printing out your manuscript, writing a character bio/summary, examining your protagonist(s) and antagonist(s), and reading your manuscript. Each day takes you further into your novel in an analytical way that it can be so easy to ignore when you are in the throes of artistic discovery.

Thus far, I have been happy with what PlotWriMo has revealed to me about my NaNo 2012 WIP. I knew it needed some work, and marking the 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4 points in conjunction with the entry to Act II, the midway crisis, the climax, and the denouement has really opened my eyes to what I already had an idea about: my sagging middle. (And no, I don’t mean my body, but the middle of my novel.) I’ve always been told I should do this, but I’ve never taken the time out of writing to actually do it. But as I go into revising this novel, knowing that it needs some significant work (it was, after all, a NaNo creation), this is a great thing to do. It will enable me to approach draft two with eyes wide open, having concrete ideas as to how to make this novel’s plot better. There are many good scenes, and many phrases that have pleasantly surprised me in my read through this WIP. However, a few good sentences or few wonderful moments won’t carry a reader through to the final pages. It’s about the entire journey, not an isolated paragraph here and there.

So as I look at the second half of December, which is undoubtedly going to be busier than this first half, and hopefully more enjoyable, I am left reconsidering goals and a life spent. My goal this month is to extensively re-plot my NaNo 2012 novel and enter January with a solid plan for draft two, in the hopes that by the end of January, I can pass it on to a Beta reader or two and get some official feedback.

What are your goals for this month? Don’t wait until New Year’s Resolutions to set a goal and get to work. You never know how long you have.