Life After NaNoWriMo: Next Steps for You and Your Manuscript

Next Steps for NaNoWrMo

Last month, writers everywhere participated in National Novel Writing Month with the ambitious goal of completing a 50,000-word novel manuscript. If you reached your November writing goal, congratulations! You’ve already accomplished something impressive, yet finishing the first draft of a manuscript is only the beginning. Here are some steps to take as you move beyond the NaNoWriMo whirlwind:

  • Congratulate Yourself: As Tom Clancy once said: “Success is a finished book — a stack of pages each of which is filled with words. If you reach that point, you have won a victory over yourself no less impressive than sailing single-handed around the world.” So go ahead and feel awesome about yourself for awhile. You deserve it.
  • Walk Away (For Now): As exciting as thoughts of publishing might be, the best thing you can possibly do for your book — and for yourself — is to get some distance. Whether you’re in love with your new manuscript or you’ve convinced yourself it’s awful, you’ll have a much clearer idea of where your novel stands when you return with fresh eyes. Don’t attempt to re-read or revise until at least a month or two have passed. It will be worth the wait.
  • Keep Your Momentum: If nothing else, NaNoWriMo has just whipped you into excellent writing shape. You’ve fallen into a wonderful habit of daily writing, and there’s no reason to stop now. While you should certainly allow yourself a less intense daily word count and might want to work on some smaller projects for awhile, don’t lose those writing muscles.
  • Start Building an Author Platform: Now that you’ve written the first draft of your book, you should have a solid understanding of who your target audience will be. Start getting involved in online communities that are relevant to the issues and interests reflected in your manuscript. If you can establish yourself as a trustworthy and active member in groups of like-minded readers and writers, you’ll have a network of peers and followers who will be willing to buy and promote your work when the time comes.
  • Return, Re-read, Revise: Once you’ve forgotten the intricate plot points in your story and the intimate personality traits of your characters, you’re ready to return to your NaNoWriMo manuscript with a renewed sense of clarity and focus. Early revisions should be broad — deleting unnecessary sections, reorganizing chapters, etc. As you work through more drafts, you can get more and more focused until you’re revising individual scenes and, ultimately, editing on the sentence level. Consider working with a professional editor for help.
  • Explore Your Publishing Options: When you’ve worked through multiple drafts of your novel and are happy with your story, you can start exploring your publishing options. Do your research to determine how the pros and cons of both traditional and self-publishing jive with your unique situation and goals for your book. Set realistic publishing goals, and then work toward them with the same tenacity that got you through NaNoWriMo in the first place.

What plans do you have in store for your NaNoWriMo manuscript?