I’m Done with NaNo… Now What?

So it’s the first day of December and you’re coming off of that NaNoWriMo high. Even if you didn’t finish, you’ve done a lot this month! You’re exhausted and excited and your manuscript is both everything you want it to be and something you never want to look at again. So what should you do?

1. Take a deep breath.

You just wrote an entire novel in a month. That’s amazing! In one month you have done something that many people won’t do in their entire lifetime! So take a step back, make yourself a warm beverage (probably something decaffeinated, you’ve consumed enough caffeine during November), and try to take your mind off of your manuscript. Read a book for fun, binge watch something on Netflix (you should probably watch Jessica Jones, it’s fantastic), catch up on your sleep. Decompress.

2. Go back to your desk. Make notes.

After taking some time to relax, you may find that you’ve remembered something amazing that you want to include in your manuscript. You also may realize that your main romance has too much ‘insta-love’ or that the best friend character should really get killed off in the middle. Write that stuff down! Put it on a post-it note next to your computer or in the notebook you’ve used to plan out your NaNo. Don’t rush to add it in to your manuscript yet.

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3. Take another break! Celebrate! You’ve earned it.

Go out with your friends/family/kids/significant other. They probably didn’t see you a lot in November and might feel a bit neglected. Tell them about what you’re writing (but try not to talk their ear off). Have them celebrate with you. This will help get your mind off of the manuscript. It will help you revitalize your creativity and be able to go back to your draft with fresh eyes.

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4. Okay. Now it’s time to re-read.

The fun and games are over and now it’s time to actually look over what you created. WARNING: It may be a bit scary. You will probably dislike a lot of what you’ve written. That’s okay. Writing is re-writing and though it may be scary, you’ll have to spend a lot of time with your drafts. Writing 50,000 words in a month is crazy, so your writing isn’t going to be perfect. Spend this time re-reading your draft with fresh eyes. Don’t read for editorial errors. Don’t go into the document and fix anything yet. Read for content. Make sure that your characters are doing what you want them to do, and that your plot aligns with your vision. Write any major points down so you can go back and fix them once it’s time to edit. Reading over your manuscript without a red pen in hand will help you look at your NaNo with more objective eyes; you should be able to focus on the big picture, not the minute details.

5. Buckle down, it’s editing time…

The time has come. Take out the post-its you’ve made during the previous steps and start making changes to put them in action. Shift around scenes and write new ones. Make your plot clear and your characters interesting. Try and catch any major plot holes. Skim for typos or any inconsistencies (if you’ve renamed a character, make sure their old name isn’t still in there). Start polishing up your manuscript into the draft that you’ve envisioned it to be.

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6. Take another step back. Have other people read your work.

You’ve made all of your major edits, and now it’s time to set your baby free. Send it to any beta readers you may have (it’s so, so important to have beta readers). After you go through their edits and make changes, send it to a freelance editor. Do your research to see what editor fits your need the best. We would love to edit your manuscript (if our schedules permits), but there are also tons of freelance editors out there. Ask editors to do sample edits if you want. Spend time trying to figure out who will help your manuscript (and you) the most. Once you’ve found someone, send them your manuscript. It may be difficult trusting someone else to edit your baby, but there comes a time when it has to leave your desk and you have to kiss it goodbye for awhile.

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This may sound daunting, and that is totally normal. Writing and editing a book is daunting! But if you don’t write your novel, who will? Writing is a magical, grueling process, but there’s a reason you were drawn to your manuscript. NaNo can be crazy, take time before you edit to remember why you fell in love with your story idea. It doesn’t matter if you want to self-publish or go the traditional route, it’s important to take time for yourself as you edit. Be sure to take breaks, be healthy, and just remember to breathe. This is a long road, but you can make it through to the other side.

 

Not feeling confident? These are some published novels that were written during NaNoWriMo!

  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  • Don’t Let Me Go by J.H. Trumble
  • Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer

-Z.S.