NaNoWriMo Is Over. Now What?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this question. More importantly, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked this question myself.

Now what? Now that NaNoWriMo is over, what should you be doing now?

NaNoWriMo Is Over. Now What?

I’ve “won” NaNoWriMo six times (and only published one major work and two novelettes, so this is not a boast). On far too many occasions, I’ve completed my work, gotten my goodies, and then done nothing at all with the novel I wrote. Sometimes, I lost momentum entirely; I’ve even ended up blocked. I don’t want that to be you.

3 Things You Should Do Now that NaNoWriMo Is Over

Here are three solid and adaptable tips to help you now that NaNoWriMo is done.

This is largely going to be common-sense stuff, but it’s also going to be advice from something of a veteran. I hope you find it helpful.

1. If you’re not done, keep writing.

ktpng

Do not stop writing, and do not abandon your project, even if you don’t think it’s going to be published.

I have two crucial reasons for this. One, you’ve managed to build up inertia this past month. You need to keep it going. I’m not saying you can’t take a break (in fact, you probably need a break), but I know this from experience: if your “break” turns into days without writing, you will lose the momentum you’ve gained.

The second reason is this: you will gain real power and confidence from the knowledge that you have finished a complete novel. 

I can’t emphasize this enough to you, especially if you’re just starting out as a writer. Knowing you are capable of not just starting but completing such an ambitious project is jet-fuel in your tank. That knowledge can help you get past some of the worst dry spells.

2. If you’re done, start editing.

Proofreading red pencil

Finished your book? You should be really, really proud. This is a big moment – and now, it’s time to refine that book into something good.

Yes, even if you’re not going to publish it. Know why? Because the skill of self-editing requires practice the same way writing does.

This post isn’t about how to edit. There are plenty of posts on this site already covering that (How to Edit Like a ProWhy You Should Edit Your First Draft for Captain ObviousThe Proofreading Technique That Will Change Your Life; and The Five-Draft Plan among others).

What’s important is learning how to edit well. The more you practice editing, the better you’ll get at refining your work. Whether you’re submitting it to agents or self-publishing, you need to know how to edit well. Your NaNoWriMo novel is a great chance to practice.

3. Don’t forget to take care of yourself.

Girl running at sunset with reflection in water

  • Writing is like exercise. It expends a certain kind of calorie, and when those calories are burned, you have to replace them.
  • Writing is like sweat. The more you produce, the more fluid you need to rejuvenate your system.
  • Writing is like a rain barrel. You can scoop cup after cup of creativity from it, but if you don’t take the time to refill it, eventually, you’ll come up empty.

You just spent a month writing your heart out. This is excellent and important, and it matters. But now, you need to do some maintenance on yourself.

Creativity can run dry. Most of you know this; you’ve had dry periods, writer’s block, and worse. The good news is, this is an easy fix if you take care of it regularly.

  1. Return to what lit your passion in the first place. What inspired you to write? Was it something you saw, like a television show, movie, or play? Was it something you read, like a favorite author, or someone’s biography? Was it something you heard, like a song that tells a story, or a symphony that shapes a character in your mind? Whatever that thing was, it’s time for you to go find it again, or something very like it.
  2. Do something that isn’t writing-related but is creative. I know, you don’t have time for new hobbies, but this is important. What goes into your writing has to come from you—and what’s in you comes from what you experience. If you want your writing to be relatable, powerful, moving, empathetic, you have to get out there and experience life. If you only ever see the inside of your home-office, you won’t be able to show, not tell the world the way it is.
  3. Have some fun. Writing is work, but it has to be fun, too. If it’s nothing but a dreary job, that will show, and your reader won’t enjoy it, either. Have fun with your work. Enjoy it and be proud of it. If you’re not sure how, or you were enjoying it but now you’re not, then this is a good time to regroup and remind yourself why you’re passionate about this book in the first place.
  4. Make sure to get some exercise. I don’t really like exercise, but you know what? When I do it,  I write better. This is basic physiology. When you get healthy, your writing will get healthy, too.

NaNoWriMo’s Over, Final Thoughts

I promise you, it’s okay if you don’t end up publishing this novel.

Every author out there has “trunk novels” that don’t get published. It’s normal. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty or ashamed, and don’t let those nasty doubting voices tell you you’ve failed. You haven’t failed.

Finish your novel. Edit it. Be proud of it. Your blood, sweat, and tears mark every page, and knowing you’re capable of something this big (which you ARE) can keep you going.

You can do this. Now go write some more!

What about you? Did you finish your book? Are you ready to edit? Let me know in the comments.

PRACTICE

How did your NaNoWriMo experience go? Are you ready for the next step? Take fifteen minutes and brainstorm what you need to do next to keep yourself going after the month of November. Do you need to finish? Edit? Take care of yourself? Tell us in the comments!

About Ruthanne Reid

Sci-fi/fantasy author Ruthanne Reid currently lives in Phoenix, Arizona, though some say she really lives in her head. They'd be right. To see what she's all about (and snag free books), visit RuthanneReid.com or follow her on Twitter (@RuthanneReid).

  • Great tips! I think it’s funny how people “win” NaNoWriMo. Like a word goal is all that matters. I didn’t officially enter, but I did do NaNoWriMo this year. I guess you could say I lost sense my novel is only 40,000 words, technically a novella at this point. But I finished. I got the story down and I now know the flow, which I think is what the first draft is meant for.

    Taking a rest/simmering period before jumping into the second draft in January. I suppose that fit’s into the take care of yourself category.

    • Liz

      I’d been working on a book for years, but didn’t know how to write a book. My deceased husband had given me the perfect murder weapon so I HAD to finish the book. A few years back me and NaNoWriMo wrote ‘Workshop Murder’ and like you 30,000 words is not a “winner” but it was for me because I had a beginning, middle, and end to a book that meant a great deal to me. (No it’s not published yet) But this year I wrote book 2 of the series and will start on the edit in Jan. As a history columnist I’ve learned to write tight and I know readers don’t want to spend weeks on a book, they prefer shorter, novella, lengths.
      Personally, I think 40,000 words is quite a winner. Way to go Katherine Rebekah!

      • That sounds great story! I love the tittle. Best of luck on editing and getting it published as a series.

    • That’s awesome, Katherine! Congratulations! I hope your editing goes great. 🙂

  • James Wright

    I didn’t even get out of the starter’s block. I hit a brick wall immediately before I even had one word on the screen.

    • Liz

      James, I started NaNo several times before I finished my first book with 30,000. and that was 2-3 years ago. This is my first to do 50,000 … It takes time and practice. And no one says you have to wait until next Nov. Do your own NaNo in Jan or March, or whatever month works for you. Just DO NOT let this be the end of your writing career.

      • James Wright

        I forgot to mention Liz that I didn’t even outline. Come Jan. I will be ready. Thanks for the great support and kind words. You Rock!

        • leejennatyler

          Ditto here, James. Ironically, what you are going through is part of the writing process. You are not alone.

    • I’m so sorry, James! It’s such a hard thing to go through; writer’s block is really rough.
      Don’t give up! You can do this. Just write something – anything. It doesn’t even have to be about your story. Just start writing (even just “Wow, I have no idea what to write…”) and letting stream-of-consciousness take over.

  • Liz

    50,182 words and “A.K.A. Murder” was finished about 6 pm. Nov 30. I’m exhausted. Within the hour I wrote and posted my weekly blog for a local newspaper. The next morning I wrote my weekly column. Yesterday I read writing books that I hadn’t had time to read yet. WOW reading certainly generates a lot of ideas. Today, I start on The First Line, a four part annual contest that has 4 deadlines throughout the year UNLESS you make ONE project out of all of it, then the deadline is Feb 1 … That’s up to 12,000 POLISHED words in 2 months.
    I’ll start my editing of NaNoWriMo in January. I’ve found that many better writers than me are correct when they say “don’t edit hot”. I catch more errors when I wait a month to edit and I’m more willing to “kill my darlings”, you know, those pieces that need to be cut but you just can’t bear to part with because you put so much into them. Cut them! Save them! Use them in another book, short story, or even as a writing prompt. It’s taken me years to figure out readers don’t remember every word, they remember the story.

    • leejennatyler

      “It’s taken me years to figure out readers don’t remember every word, they remember the story.” Love this, Liz! Spot on.

    • Great ideas, Liz! I’m so glad you’ve found an effective rhythm for when to edit, too!

  • 26922 words. So just over 1/2 of the novel. I want to keep writing it of course, as my character needs a back story. I wanted to do more with it but I ended up moving so the novel took to the back burner. However, I still write and add to it every single day. Since my character is a role play character in a game I play, Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR) so my plan for some of the advice is to enjoy playing the game again. So glad they are updating things for December :D.

    I must admit, I love writing about my main character. His name is Crimsèn Hevilas and his goal is to be the odd one out in everything he does. Yet in his back story he started as a young boy who wanted to fit into everything in just the right way. I mean he was supposed to be a Sith Juggernaut (trained force user), married, and having children to ensure his species (Sith species- http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Sith_(species)) survives. Instead he becomes a spy, discovers he’s gay, and ends up not being force sensitive so he cannot become a Sith.

    By writing I got to know my character. In a way, he became more of his own person, you know? He wasn’t just some figment of my imagination but a person with his own dreams, own ideas… It was awesome!

    Other things in my plans are to write more poetry and to get out more. Exercise would help I’m sure.

    Confession: I kinda kick myself because I started so strong. I wrote 5000 words before November 1 so I could get the hard first line out of the way. I was so sure I could finish 50,000 by November 30th; however, I will finish it! I owe it to Crim to finish the back part of his story. Maybe the people who made SWTOR will let me publish it but maybe they won’t. Either way I am still going to finish it. Hopefully sooner than later.

    • leejennatyler

      The force IS with you. Great work!

    • This is exciting stuff! Definitely finish it, regardless of whether you can publish it. It sounds like this character has really been fully fleshed out! What great practice for characters to come. 🙂

  • My first Nanowrimo, 51,448 words and I don’t have an ending yet. I was totally stuck the first six days, couldn’t write a single word on the computer screen. Finally started writing longhand in a notebook and the block went away. I hope to: 1: Write an ending, 2: Edit the book and get it in a readable format. I jumped all over the place. I kind of wished that I had taken the time to put together an outline. I am not sure if not having an outline hindered or helped me. It was a really interesting experience. The storyline and characters changed dramatically from my original premise.

    • Ross, this is wonderful. This kind of experience can really help you! Keep going. Keep working on it. Do an outline (it won’t hurt), and keep learning. 🙂

  • Kelly Graziadei

    I first heard about NANAOWRIMO last year and half-heartedly gave it a try and managed about three quarters of the month. This year I had some more practice writing daily under my belt, from a summer of working on not only a novel but weekly short stories. So I had some serious steam. I did not want to overwhelm myself with word count so I made it a goal to write EVERY day, rather than 1600 words a day. I was initially behind after the first week in terms of word count, but this was to be expected. I still wrote every day.
    By the second week, not suffering from writer’s block or creativity blocks, I doubled up on my count (not knowing it was double-up day on that Sunday of the second week, funny how that goes). Not only did I catch up to the count, but I began writing over word count every day. By Thanksgiving I’d written enough to require only a measly 600 words a day to get me to word count.
    As of Decemeber 1, I wrote 50, 300 words or so and had a blast. I only had about two or three days where it felt grueling. All of these blog posts and reading other people’s trials has led me to a certain mindset. I stopped worrying about how good the writing was and focused on getting the writing done. I focused on what I wanted to say (or the characters) instead of what I felt needed to be said. It really is true that writing a lot is what makes you a good writer. Even if it starts out bad. Even if a monkey could write better. Well I showed that monkey.

    • Kelly, this is FABULOUS! What great momentum!!

      Yes: writing makes you a writer. Writing MORE makes you a good writer. 🙂 Keep going! Thanks for sharing this awesome experience!

  • rosie

    This is so exciting!
    I’m still allowed to squeal, because I’m not too old for that yet. It’s hard to get over the sheer volume of words we’ve all achieved last month. Well done everyone!

    • You are totally allowed to squeal, Rosie! Consider this your official permission. 😉

  • EmFairley

    This was my first attempt at NaNo and I busted through, with over 57,000 words by the time December rolled around. I’ve slowed down a bit, but I’m now through 60,000 with around another 10,000 to go! All that and I was worried I wouldn’t make it to 50,000! Grin

    • Congratulations, Em! This is terrific! WOOOHOO!

      • EmFairley

        Thanks Ruthanne! I’m a little late starting the edit, but hope to get to it today…

  • I hit a couple over 60k for my first NaNoWriMo experience, and I’ve got to keep the motivation going so I can finish the story. It feels like it is at least about 3/4 of the way done, but I need to push on ahead. Of course, I say this as I am working on some graduate school / seminary homework that really needs my attention right now!

    • That’s awesome, Matt! And I know what you mean – I’m going through grad school myself right now, in seminary, for counseling. 🙂 What I can tell you is this: keep writing. Even if it’s just a paragraph a day, write something creative to keep your muscles in shape!

  • Creatively Christina

    I did NaNo several years ago and never finished. It’s one of those “trunk novels.” But I have been living with this story, “Silver Wood,” since I was a child. In October I set up character and animal (it’s a fantasy) profiles, outlined about 8 chapters, and hit the laptop running on Nov. 1. I had three “0” days and still finished 51,443 words. I took off four days and just went back to first-time editing. When I finish that, I’ll “drawer-it” till spring and pull it out fresh-eyes and work on character development, plot and more description. This is the bare bones – perhaps I even have a sequence novel here!!! WAHOOO!!!
    Creatively Christina, West Falmouth, Cape Cod

    • Oooh, I love the idea, Christina! And CONGRATULATIONS! No matter what you do with it, having written this much is an awesome boost. You can do it!

  • LilianGardner

    Thanks Ruthanne, for getting me ‘running’ again. I have not posted anything for the past weeks. Now, to catch up on TWP and visit the forums.

    I enjoyed the NaNo challenge because I wanted to prove to my family and myself that I could write 50,000 words, and finish on time.
    I wrote the second part of my novel for the challenge, and, having written 37,000 words of the first part, I already had my protagonist and other characters in mind. The second part was fun and inspiring because I invented more characters, locations, and periods of time.
    I did not once think of writng for publishing, but purely as a ‘challenge’. I had fun, fun, fun.
    I’ll wait a while before editing, and then I’m sure I’ll be cutting like mad. I always do. I hate clutter and repetitions.

    Cheers to you and all our fabulous members.

  • Pingback: This Week in Writing (12/5/15): 5 Cool Articles and Links | Knite Writes()

  • Pingback: Monday Must-Reads [12.07.15]()

  • Lauren Timmins

    I have discovered the NaNoWriMo + School is too much for me to handle. I got about 6,000 words in, then had to abandon it for research papers and other things x3 I think I’ll go for a personal novel writing month in June. It is absolutely amazing to see how well everyone else did though!

    • I hear you! I’m in grad school right now, and I couldn’t do it this year. 🙂 If there’s anything I can tell you, though, it’s this: write SOMETHING. Even if it’s just a paragraph a day. Write and don’t give up so you don’t fall out of the habit. 🙂