You’ve finished your NaNoNovel? Congratulations! Or maybe you got all 50,000 words down, but those don’t include “The End” just yet. That’s still freaking awesome. Or is it that you know you’ll cross that finish line, just not in November of this year? That’s okay too!
If you’re in the last two groups, keep at it! Don’t burn yourself out, of course, but don’t quit just because an arbitrary deadline has passed. If you’re a part of the first group, though, you’re probably wondering, “what do I do now?”
Let me say that again: PUT. THE NOVEL. DOWN. Don’t edit it, don’t read it, don’t think about it. Set it aside, covered, where you won’t be tempted to take a peek. I know everything in your being wants to get back to work (or burn it, even – I get that, too), but don’t. This is the resting period.
Nearly every writer will tell you that after you write something, you need to let it rest before you edit it, and that’s because you need to give room for the fairies to sneak in at night and fix everything that’s wrong wit–I’m just kidding. But once you get some space between you and your writing, it will seem to change. Passages you thought were terrible when you wrote it will actually seem pretty amazing, sections you thought were great will somehow be awful. Problems and plot holes will become more obvious, but also fixable. Let it rest. Trust me. Editing now will only harm what you have.
So what do I do?
Firstly, secure your novel. You might also want to back it up somewhere in a second location – off-site if you’re thorough – and then give some of these activities a try! Some are serious, some are fun, some are both. But all are worth giving a shot to distract you from your novel just waiting for you to finish it.
Things to do:
- Plan how long you’ll let your novel rest. Stephen King says to wait at least six weeks before even thinking about it again. Other writers say anywhere from a day to a year. The longer you wait the better it’ll be, up until the point you lose interest in your book.
- Update your followers on your NaNoWriMo success! Don’t have followers? Well…
- Start working on your social media profiles, stat. I’m not an expert on social media just yet, but I’ll also work on this while I wait on my own NaNoNovel.
- Flavia Young suggests that you plan your editing strategy for when it’s time to start editing. Figure out what your pace will be like, but be realistic: if you think you can only edit a page a day with your schedule or brain power, do that – a page a day for 365 days is better than doing 100 pages all at once and then never touching it again because you burned yourself out.
- Be on the lookout for the editing post I’ll put out soon.
- Suzannah Freeman suggests that you set new writing goals, and I agree. What are you going to write next? A suggestion I’ve seen before is to write the first draft of one book, set is aside and immediately start a new book. Finish that first draft, and only then start to edit the first one. Alternatively you can try your hand at writing short stories or your own blog about your NaNo experience. Or cats. Whatever – I’m not a cop.
- If you want to go the traditional publishing route, I would recommend you start looking into agents and such. Not querying yet, but looking at their reviews and what kinds of books they represent to get an idea of where your novel fits.
- For self-publishing, start looking into what you need to do this: editors, book cover designers, beta readers, sensitivity readers, etc. What platform are you going to publish on? Where does your novel fit in that realm?
- Keep working on your writing skills:
- Online courses.
- YouTube videos.
- Practice with short stories and take them to workshops and meetups for critiquing.
- Learn new words.
- Read read read!
- Pick up a new hobby – getting hands on experience with the world can only be good for your writing. I started gardening in the summer, and soon I’ll be building a garden bed to get ready for Spring next year. I’ve also got a few other hobbies lined up for once that’s done, as I imagine this winter will be a long one.
- Finish your research! Anything that you avoided looking up while trying to get your 1667/day is now open season. Go ahead and find the air speed velocity of a coconut-laden swallow, or whatever else you wanted in your story but used a placeholder instead.
- Jo Gatford has a (great) list of things to do after your first draft as well, including some bits that involve your novel, if you can’t stand to completely step away.
- Get back in touch with all the loved ones you alienated during November! If you were smart, you stayed at home during the holidays, but you probably should have called them once or twice. Or showed up to shove food in your face during your Thanksgiving zoom call. I don’t really know how that goes, honestly. Whatever leafs your family’s tree, I guess.
- Make up fun phrases, like I just did there. Make sure to write them down so you can shoehorn them into your next project.
- Do your laundry. No doubt you skimped on anything you could during this month, and laundry is one we’ve all been slacking on recently anyway. Who cares if your pajama pants smell a tad ripe? We’re in the apocalypse! Well, now is the time you can start thinking about how you appear to others, if only to rebuild your self-confidence after a month of doubt, pain, and disappointment. Or, if you actually got to 50 thousand words, use your excess energy to get cleaned up for all the rounds of bragging you’re going to do.
- Catch up on all the video games, TV, and movies you missed out on.
- Get some new pajama pants. I’m assuming, if you’re anything like me, you wore a hole in every single pair you own, since no one is wearing real pants nowadays. Spruce up your winter wardrobe with a whole new set of PJs and sweats.
- Feed your pets. You…you did have someone take care of that for November, right? Oh dear…well:
- Regain the trust of your feral house animals. Since they were forced to go lord of the flies on your pantry while you pecked away at the keyboard, they no doubt have a little lingering mistrust toward you. Try to earn that back with treats and scritches.
- Go for a walk, or at least see the sun.
- Practice your signature! While it’s too early to start to really dream about success, it might take some time to figure out the perfect way to sign your name on your new novel. And lord knows you don’t want to be caught off guard with a weird scribble.
- Find some new bloggers to follow.
- Eat a damn vegetable. If you’re anything like me, you eat like shit when you’re busy. Here’s your chance to try to off-set an entire month of pizza with a carrot or something.
- Journal about your month. Think about what could have gone better, or what ended up working really well. How did this month feel to you? Rushed? Exciting? Painful? Why?
- Breathe: you made it! Whether you actually got to 50k or not doesn’t matter. You gave it a shot and made it to the other side. If you’re reading this, it means that you still want to write, and that’s a win in my book. Again, if you didn’t quite get to the finish line yet, that’s okay. I didn’t either! What’s a problem is if you decide to quit altogether.
Maybe you came to the conclusion that you just don’t like writing as much as you thought, and that’s okay. But if you do like writing, don’t beat yourself up because you didn’t get to a made up goal set by someone you’ve never met. And if you did make it, make sure to take a moment to celebrate how far you’ve come. Which is only part of the way, I hope you know.
Editing and rewriting (yes, you get to do all of this again!) is a big part of the process and can be daunting. So catch your breath. Enjoy the view. You’ve earned it.