So you Won NaNo: What Now?

Sunday 1 December 2013 by

NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, Writing, Coffee, NovemberFirst of all, my congratulations! It’s not an easy thing to do, and you’ve done it. Pat yourself on the back and indulge in a glass of champagne or two.

But, tired though you may be, I bet you’re also buzzing on the high of getting all those words down. Perhaps this is the first time you’ve finished a project, or if 50,000 words wasn’t quite enough to finish, maybe it’s the furthest you’ve ever got. Even if you’re an old hand at this, there’s nothing like seeing that magic 50,000 to give you a boost of confidence and motivation.

Of course, you may be sitting there thinking ‘never again!’ Absolutely fair enough – revel in your success then get back to life as usual. But if you want to capitalise on that buzz and move forwards with your writing, here are some suggestions for where to take things next:

1.     Have a break

No, seriously. You’ve earned it. You might want to plough straight into another project, or editing the one you just finished, but if you try to keep going, you’re going to get burnout. Detox from caffeine, tidy your workspace, catch up on some sleep, watch those television programs you’ve been neglecting – do everything you’ve denied yourself this past month and enjoy it. It will recharge your batteries and help get the ideas flowing again.

2.     Put the finished project in a drawer for a while

Hard as it may be to resist going straight in for the edit, even a week or two isn’t really enough to create the distance needed between you and your project. Shelve it until the new year and come at it with fresh, unbiased eyes.

3.     Read up on story structure and other editing tips

You know there are sections of your novel that are a mess. Maybe even entirely superfluous chapters from those days when you couldn’t think of anything to write, so you decided to detail your character’s lunch and dinner choices. Swot up on some top editing tips and make notes on things you think you could apply to your manuscript. It will help you to trudge through the editing process (which is just as arduous as the writing one, trust me!) if you know the solutions to some of the problems, or at least have some outline of a plan.

4.     Start thinking about your next project

Start that notebook, those character profiles, make your playlists. Whatever you do to get yourself to the point of starting your novels, get started doing that in your downtime away from your NaNo novel. Even if your NaNo novel is a masterpiece and agents and editors are going to be fighting over it, you’ll still need book two to follow it.

5.     Establish a writing routine that doesn’t rely on the NaNo atmosphere

Whether you’ve been doing sprints with other writers, chatting on the forums, or simply enjoying watching your bar graph increase in line with the ‘average’ line, there’s something special about the NaNo atmosphere that helps to keep you moving. Post-November, you’ll be going it alone, and you need to work out something that is going to keep you moving. Don’t expect to churn out 1667 words a day – there’s no way a normal person can keep up that level of motivation! But don’t be disappointed if you’re writing less than half your NaNo daily targets. 250 words a day – that’s a 90k novel in a year!

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