NaNo – Now What?

NaNo Now What? A guide to recovering after writing a novel

In 2020 I attempted – and managed- my biggest NaNoWriMo challenge to date: 80,000 words in 30 days, an epic sequel to my previous NaNoWriMo effort, which followed Malcolm The Werefox from A Tale of Two Princes. Along the way lots of fellow writers, and those interested in attempting the challenge themselves, asked questions about my process, but being caught up in it, I didn’t have time to fully respond. So in this mini-series I’m going to break down my processes step by step to help you make the most of NaNoWriMo 2021. This post is for the post NaNoWriMo slump, where you’re looking at a mess of words and thinking ‘Great, I managed NaNo! Now what?’

If you’re not quite there yet and are thinking about participating in NaNoWriMo for the first time, you may want to hop back to my Preptober post, which tells you my method for planning your NaNoWriMo novel, or my 5 top tips for smashing NaNoWriMo for the month of November itself.

So You Wrote A Novel….Now What?

You wrote a novel! Well done. That’s a huge achievement, and one that many people who set out on the same journey as you won’t have managed. Take a moment to bask in your glory. You are amazing! But you’re probably wondering what to do next. After 30 days of getting up and writing, you probably don’t know quite what to do with yourself. Here’s what you’re not going to do:

1. Don’t Read It.

I know that feels wrong. You’ve spent a month or more crafting this baby and now you’re supposed to just ignore it? Yes. I know it’s really tempting. You were writing too fast to really appreciate those amazing lines and fantastic plot twists during NaNoWriMo and you want to go enjoy them. But your novel will be soooooo much easier to edit if you’ve forgotten most of it and come back to it with fresh eyes. put it away for a few months if you can, and work on something else. At the very least, forbid yourself from looking at it at all during the month of December.

2. Dont Revise Or Edit It

You’re too close to it to do anything to it yet. You need to let yourself forget it so that you can re-read it with fresh eyes later. Your mind will still be going over and adjusting plot points, or coming up with no twists or snatches of character development. Make a note of those thoughts somewhere else and save them for when you get stuck into editing in the new year. Getting some distance will give your subconscious time to work away on the little details that will make your story sing.

3. Dont Send It Out

Not to critique partners, not to friends, not to your nan and definitely, 100%, absolutely not to publishers. Even if your work is amazing, and you are a genius, you can’t go from blank page to full novel in 30 days without some edits being needed. Please don’t ruin your chances with your dream publisher by sending them your sloppy first draft. Give it time to be refined and polished until it is the very best it can possibly be. You won’t miss your opportunity by waiting, but you might well blow it entirely if you send your novel out while it is still a draft.

So What Can You Do?

4. Relax and Reflect

Even though you’ve spent most of the month behind a laptop, you will be tired. Achieving – heck even attempting – a massive feat like 50,000 words in a month is exhausting. The cognitive load of managing your time, convincing yourself to write, and sticking to it is huge, and that’s before we factor in the fact you’ve invented a whole cast of people, events, and places in your head and wrote them into being. Creation is hard work. Even God gave himself Sunday off. You need to rest and replenish yourself. You need to refill the creative well. Go outside, take a walk, see some of the people you’ve been neglecting. Blowing the cobwebs away will help you recover more quickly. It’ll also give you a chance to reflect on what about NaNoWriMo worked for you, what didn’t, what habits you want to keep, and what you’ve learned about your process.

5. Connect With Other Writers

Writing is a lonely vocation, and many writers are introverts and so that suits them just fine. But befriending other writers – whether they are in your genre or not – is so very valuable and shouldn’t be overlooked even if you are very shy. NaNoWriMo and the surrounding months are a great time to find other writers to connect with, using the NaNoWriMo forums, hashtags, and Facebook groups (these are usually location specific so if you’re feeling brave and it’s safe to, you can join with in-person meet-ups or “write-ins”). When we finally let that inner editor out of the basement, you’ll need critique partners and beta readers to show you the things that you’re too close to see, and ask the questions that will really drive your story forward.

Have you ever participated in NaNoWriMo? How did you deal with the post-novel NaNo – Now What? feeling?

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Author: Victoria Pearson

Victoria Pearson lives behind a keyboard somewhere in rural Bedfordshire, with her husband, her four children and her dog. She writes very strange stories.

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