You’ve turned in your 50,000 words, watched the congratulatory video, and taken a great sigh of relief. You may now rest on your laurels, content that you have defeated the blank page.
NaNoWriMo may be over, but your work is not. Unless you have super powers, the month-long marathon hasn’t given you a finished product that you can send to agents or publish yourself.
So what now? The answer will be different for everyone, but here’s some steps you can consider.
Most novels are over 50,000 words long, so chances are very good that you haven’t written all the way to the end. You may not have NaNo to motivate you anymore, but you can still create deadline pressure. If you think you are at least two thirds done, promise yourself you’ll finish by the end of the year. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to celebrate the new year along with the completion of your story?
Regardless of how far you’ve gotten, find a date that works for you. Find others that are in a similar position, and check in with them about the progress you’ve made. If they’re local, schedule days to write together.
NaNoWriMo is about prioritizing your writing. The real winners are the people that use what they learned during November to write on an ongoing basis throughout the year. Maybe you’ve been writing four nights a week, and that’s too much for you. But could you maintain two nights a week?
If you’re feeling frustrated about the writing process, or discouraged about the quality of your work, it might be a good time to take a break. When you come back after spending time away from your writing, you’ll have a fresh perspective. It will be easier evaluate your work, and come up with new solutions to problems that were bothering you.
But don’t lose the momentum you gained from NaNo. Set aside the time you would normally be writing to engage in related activities.
This is a great time to read some novels. Pick an author with a writing style you want to achieve, and read their works. If you had any confusion during the last month about how you explain your world, or transition between scenes, you can use their books as a guide.
When you feel revived, get back to writing.
Evaluate Your Work
You’ve finished your story. You know it’s not perfect, but you’re not sure how to make it better. Sounds like a great time to assess your work. Even if you’ve created a shining pearl of perfection, you can only benefit from taking out a microscope and looking for rough spots.
If you wrote an outline before you started writing, compare it to your draft to find important things you missed. You probably had great reasons for doing something different, but when things are moved around, you can accidentally remove foreshadowing, explanations, or critical plot points. Make sure your changes jibe with the rest of the story.
Get beta readers. There is simply no replacement for a personalized, outside perspective. I could write a whole post on beta reading, but here are a few guidelines:
- Pick readers who will be honest with you, and be prepared to receive criticism.
- Encourage them to focus on their impressions rather than prescribing specific changes.
- Ask them about the most essential points. Did they like your protagonist? Did the plot make sense? Were they entertained?
- Above all, don’t argue with them. You’re not going to be there to argue with your readers after your book is published. If they didn’t get what you were trying to do, it’s because you didn’t explain it well enough in your writing.
Once you’ve found the biggest problems, get back to work. It’ll be hard to find the small issues until the large ones are fixed.
Maybe you’ve finished your story, maybe you haven’t. Regardless, every weak character, every plot hole, and every boring scene you were forced to include while pumping out words is now waging war on your sanity.
So rewrite it already. There’s no point in finishing a story when you’ll have to change the ending anyway, or getting beta readers who will point out weaknesses you’re already aware of.
Consider planning it first. List the changes you want to make, consider the ripples those changes will create in your story, and then write an outline for the part you haven’t finished. It’ll save you time later.
If you don’t like planning, or if it destroys the discovery you feel during your writing process, it’s okay to skip it. Just be prepared to rewrite some more.
Either way, do your rewrite in the NaNo spirit. Prioritize the time you spend on your book. Make goals and deadlines.
After running a month-long marathon, it’s very tempting to sit down and catch your breath. But if you do, you could get caught in a binge and purge cycle of delaying your writing, feeling guilty, doing NaNo, and then delaying again. Instead you should keep going, even if that means throttling down your speed immensely. The most valuable thing that you can take away from November is an ongoing habit of writing and creating. That’s what turns writers into authors.
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