If you took part in NaNoWriMo, whether you reached the 50k goal and “won” or not, at the end of the month there can be a feeling of uncertainty and even loss. You’ve had this big, month-long project that has been your sole focus of attention, but now everything is over. What on earth are you supposed to do now?
Read on to find out 🙂
Keep The Writing Habit
The goal of NaNoWriMo isn’t to write 50k words in a month.Sure, it’s what everyone talks about since it’s nice to say “I’m going to write a novel in a month!”
But that ignores the real goal of NaNoWriMo, which is to get you into the habit of writing every day.
It’s fairly established that it takes 21 days for a new activity to become a habit. You’ve just had 30 days of writing, where you have (probably) written every day. Don’t lose the habit!
Sure, it may not be practical to put aside the same amount of time each day that you did during NaNoWriMo. But even if you only write a few hundred words each day, over several months that’s going to get you a novel!
Finish Your Book
Unless you did meticulous planning or wrote more than the expected 50k words in the month, it’s unlikely that what you wrote during NaNoWriMo got you to the end of your book.
Maybe you’re in the final act of the story, with only a few more chapters left to go. Or maybe you’re barely half-way through the story you have planned. It doesn’t matter – keep going!
Unless you hate what you’ve written, use the momentum you have built up over the past month to carry you through to the end of the story.
(When I successfully did NaNoWriMo, it took me another ten days or so to finish the first draft of my novel, adding another ~15k words).
Don’t Look Back
Hopefully, NaNoWriMo has taught you the habit of just writing continuously, and not constantly going back over what you’ve written to “tweak” it. Don’t let NaNoWriMo being over let you fall back into that bad habit!
Unless you need to jump back to double-check something in your story, don’t re-read (and especially don’t edit) anything you’ve written so far. There is plenty of time for that later.
Always look forward, in this book and any others you write.
Leave Your Book Alone
This is related to the above point. Once you finish your NaNoWriMo book, it can be tempting to immediately jump back in and keep working on your manuscript. Resist the urge!
With everything you write, always give it some time to “sit.” Take time away from the book, and don’t look at it at all. A week is a bare minimum for this, but a month or more is even better.
This time allows you to come back to the book with fresh eyes. It gives you a chance to find plot holes, contradictions or just plain mistakes in the story that you missed during the writing process. And it also gives your subconscious time to ponder the story and come up with new twists or additions that you could add when you start revising the book.
(This was invaluable when it came to my NaNoWriMo novel. I let it sit for several months while I worked on other things, and my subconscious came up with quite a few things that improved the final book. It did mean a lot of rewriting when I came back to the book, but because my mind had been thinking about everything during that time, the rewrite process was pretty quick and painless).
Edit and Rewrite
NaNoWriMo is all about writing quickly, and not editing as you write, but that doesn’t mean you don’t edit later! After you’ve left the book alone for some time, do take the time to revisit it and edit or rewrite as needed.
The book will probably be in much better shape than you feared it would be (not editing while you write does produce good writing once you get into the flow), but it still will need some work 🙂
Review This Year, Plan For Next Year!
The great thing about NaNoWriMo being an annual event is that you have a definite date that you can plan for. Take advantage of this so you can think about what did (and didn’t) work for you this year, and what you can do differently next year. Because it’s a planned “event,” you can make sure you have organized ahead of time for a smooth writing month.
And if you struggle to find time to write, use NaNoWriMo as an excuse to force yourself to make time for writing. Your family might never give you a moment’s rest during the rest of the year, but at least in November you can say “sorry, I can’t talk now, I’m doing NaNoWriMo!” 🙂