You won National Novel Writing Month! Now what?
Life after NaNoWriMo can be confusing and anticlimactic—but it doesn’t have to be. Here’s what you can do over the next six months to keep your novel-in-progress in motion.
Welcome to the winning side of NaNoWriMo! Doesn’t it feel great?
Probably not the first feeling that comes to mind. How about exhausted, thirsty and (dare I say) doubtful?
Even if you didn’t reach the 50K mark, you still wrote a lot of words in a short period of time! That deserves a pat on the back and maybe a nice meal out to that restaurant you didn’t have time to visit because you were too busy writing.
But then what? Where do you go from here now that the draft of your novel is finished?
You accomplished Challenge #1: Pulling your story out of your mind and penning it onto paper. Now comes Challenge #2: Doing everything you need to do to get your novel in print.
That’s a lot to do! Where do you start?
Let’s break it down to what you can do over the next six months. Focus on each theme month by month so that you keep your sanity without losing your drive to push your novel forward.
December: Step Away From It
I know. That sounds like contradictory advice. This blog post promises to provide actionable steps to getting your novel published, and the first thing I tell you to do is to step away.
And I promise that you’ll be glad you did.
Think about it. You’ve had your nose close to the grindstone for 30 days as you cranked out word after word, page after page, chapter after chapter. If you start reworking it now, your tunnel vision will cloud your judgment.
For your story to succeed, you need fresh eyes. That means stepping away from your story and focusing your attention on something else.
December is the perfect month to do this. Life after NaNoWriMo gets crazy during the last month of the year with the holidays, travel and commitments you let slide because National Novel Writing Month consumed all your November.
Now’s the time to get your life back on track and to establish daily patterns so that you have less to worry about finishing when it’s time to rework the draft of your novel.
That doesn’t mean you have to stop writing. If you still have a spark of creativity left in you, pursue it and push it out on paper. Just make sure it’s a story that’s not in any way related to your NaNoWriMo novel.
January: Read Through It
Happy New Year! Your goal this year is to make progress on your National Novel Writing Month novel—and you don’t want your New Year’s resolution to fail (which it will if you do this.)
So let’s begin. I want you to print out your story—all 50K+ words of it—and read it slowly as if you weren’t the writer.
Notice I didn’t say that it’s time to edit? Because you have to refresh yourself on the entirety of the story before you can decide how to rework it.
I repeat: Don’t edit your draft just yet.
As you read, jot down notes on ideas that can improve your story in a separate notebook. But don’t stop reading to brainstorm new ideas or kick yourself for writing such garbage.
Just keep reading, even if you don’t like what you read. And don’t judge yourself too hard. You only had 30 days to crank out a 50,000-word novel, so there’s bound to be chunks of words you wish didn’t make it on paper.
It probably won’t take you 31 days to read your 200+ page draft. However, still give yourself this time to do so. Let yourself pause and think about your story before continuing to read. You want to have a full understanding of what you already have created so that you can make necessary changes in the upcoming months.
February: Craft an Attack Plan
Now that you have your story fresh in your head, it’s time to read over the notes you jotted down during January. What’s missing? What needs to be taken out? What needs to be shuffled around?
Pantsers, you probably want to dive in head first to solve your glaring errors. This is the month that I recommend you take a step back.
Remember, you just read a lot of words. That’s a lot to take in. If you jump in without a plan, you risk letting the editing process overwhelm you or kill your story dead in its tracks.
Save the month of February to brainstorm how you want to rework this soon-to-be masterpiece. Now that you know what needs fixing, expanding or cutting, you can craft how to approach your editorial process chapter by chapter in manageable chunks.
March: Edit, Edit, Edit
Grab your red pens and attack!
You’ve read through your manuscript. You’ve designed an editing strategy that gets you excited to jump back in again. So go for it!
Some of you love the editorial process. And some of you hate it (to put it nicely).
If you find the editing process overwhelming to tackle, start by going through and fixing the small things in your draft, from grammatical errors you let slide to reshaping struggling sentences. Once you get in the rhythm of editing, taking on bigger revising tasks won’t be as scary to approach.
April: Sign Up For Camp NaNoWriMo
Founded by the creators of National Novel Writing Month, Camp NaNoWriMo is a virtual writing camp session during April and July where writers—shall we say campers?—dedicate the entire month to a writing project. Writers choose a writing project and word count goal between 30 and 1,000,000, then it’s time again to write!
Why not sign up for Camp NaNoWriMo in April?
It’s healthy to start writing again, whether it is a missing piece to your National Novel Writing Month novel or something complete new and different.
May: Decide How You Want to Publish
Your story might not be ready for market. And that’s okay. The editing process takes as long as it needs to take, so take as much time as you need to edit and rework your novel until it’s close to perfect.
Now that you’ve rolled up your sleeves and made some serious improvements to your manuscript, you have a better idea about the best path your novel should take when it comes to publication.
Will you submit your novel to publishing houses? Hire a literary agent? Choose to self-publish?
In today’s market, the possibilities seem endless. That’s why thoroughly researching your options now can save you a lot of frustration and heartache months down the road.
When researching your publishing options for your NaNoWriMo novel, keep your target audience and genre in mind. It could provide shortcuts in narrowing down your choices.
This six-month plan is aggressive. If you know you’ll be too busy to accommodate these hefty goals, don’t stress yourself out in trying to reach them. Make a plan that suits your schedule and your novel’s needs. The key takeaway here is that you put a plan in place instead of your manuscript in a drawer.