You came, you wrote, you conquered. Whew!
Whether you completed the 50K words, wrote more, wrote less doesn’t matter. You undertook the crazy challenge, and stuck with your commitment.
Or, not 🙂
The point being, you’ve been writing. Which of course, in the end, is all that matters.
Because the truth is, before you can do anything else, you have to have words on the page.
But then you realize the insane month of NaNoWriMo is finished. And what the heck do you do now?
First off, 50K words is not a full novel. That falls into the novella category (although, at the very max for the genre). As publishing goes in trends, sometimes novellas are in, but most often out.
If you’re writing a complete novel, you’ll still need to finish it.
For now, though, take a deep breath. Pat yourself on the back. And then get ready for the real work.
Because no matter where you are in the process, now is the time to take stock of where you are, and what lies ahead.
And here are the 7 next steps to get you going again:
- First off, take a break
You’ve written furiously. You’ve catered to your muse, worn out your backside, and typed until your fingers were raw.
Okay, that may be a bit over the top, but creatively, you’re a bit spent. Maybe even drained dry. Now is the time to rest, to rejuvenate. To read what you’ve been putting off, or go fishing.
I’m a huge believer in writer’s breaks. These are actually critical to the process, allowing that creative part of the brain to rest and then come back to level. Then, and only then, will your creativity soar again.
I counsel my writers to do this at many junctures in the process, and now is one!
- Print out all that you have written.
Why is this important? Because the brain processes differently words on a page, from words on the computer screen.
Of more importance is that making notes in longhand uses a different, more creative part of the brain. A study headed by Virginia Berninger, a University of Washington professor of educational psychology, compared methods of transcription in 4th and 6th graders. She found when the students used a pen, they wrote longer essays, composed at a faster pace.
I always coach my writers to take the actual manuscript pages in hand to begin revisions. That focuses you differently, and gives your creativity free rein.
- Read through it.
Get yourself a nice hot cup of coffee, tea, or beverage of choice, and sit down with your printed manuscript. With pen in hand, read it—just as your reader would.
Read it straight through—in one sitting, if possible.
Often, when we’re writing a new book (and during NaNoWriMo, when you don’t have time to do this), we just keep writing. And while that’s great, specific points require an entire read through.
This keeps you grounded in where the book began, where it has taken you, and helps keep it all of one piece.
I coach my writers to do this regularly. Once a week is great, although often not practical. But once a month, at least.
- Make notes—both on the manuscript itself, and in a notebook or 3X5 cards, or whatever way works best for you to keep track of characters and plot.
The holes will become apparent (especially since you’ve taken time away from the manuscript).
How did I miss this character trait? How did I forget this bridge between Act I and Act II? Man, this middle is sagging . . .
And a plethora of other issues.
Your storyline may have veered off in an entirely different direction from where it started (trust me—this is a good thing!). Note that. It may mean that you need to begin the story 50 pages in. Or, that you want to go back to the crossroad and take another path.
None of that matters now (it’s all infinitely fixable). What matters is that you see the road, and where you intend for it to go, and note that. No sense in following a path to nowhere, now, is there.
My writers love this exercise. How clear it makes everything in the mind!
- Characterization and Plotting Exercises
Once you’ve finished the above, you’ve reached the perfect time to take a hard look at where your protagonist, secondary characters, villain, and then the plot and storyline are going.
Pause in the writing, and get to know your people more deeply. Pause in the storyline, and readjust your plot.
Writing exercises are great now. While these are just the tip of the iceberg, as I give my writers a lot of them, and while folks complain to begin, they’re always so grateful to have done them.
Because all this does is help you deepen the people, streamline the plot, and enrich the story itself.
Now, wouldn’t you do these if you knew that was the outcome?
- Take up where you left off.
Now is only the time to dive into those revisions if you’ve finished the first draft. Then begins the step of revising what you already have.
But you can go forward with the knowledge of what needs to be done later. And more importantly, now you know where you’re going, right?
- Proceed with confidence.
The first 6 steps, while perhaps shaking you somewhat, resulted in a broader, deeper, more comprehensive knowledge of where you are. Where your characters and plot now sit, and where you see all of that heading.
All of the above helps you structurally with the path ahead.
But every bit as important, it instills you with the confidence needed to drive on, to finish, to believe in what you’re doing.
Because that’s the name of this writing game—confidence. The more you have, the better your writing will become.
Will doubts still surface? Yes, yes they will. But you can now deal with those from a clearer perspective, having accomplished what you have so far.
And what could be more important than that?