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?
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.
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.
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 Pro; Why You Should Edit Your First Draft for Captain Obvious; The 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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!
Best-Selling author Ruthanne Reid has led a convention panel on world-building, taught courses on plot and character development, and was keynote speaker for The Write Practice 2021 Spring Retreat.
Author of two series with five books and fifty short stories, Ruthanne has lived in her head since childhood, when she wrote her first story about a pony princess and a genocidal snake-kingdom, using up her mom’s red typewriter ribbon.
When she isn’t reading, writing, or reading about writing, Ruthanne enjoys old cartoons with her husband and two cats, and dreams of living on an island beach far, far away.
P.S. Red is still her favorite color.