November is drawing to a close, and along with Thanksgiving approaching in the US and then the beginning of advent, the end of the month also means the end of National Novel Writing Month.
Regardless of if you’re one of the lucky winners who produced 50k words or not, chances are you’ve probably made a hefty start on a new novel. Some of you may even have completed your novel, and now you’re left wondering what comes next.
Here’s my list of Dos and Don’ts for your completed NaNoWriMo novel.
DO TAKE A BREAK
One of the most common pieces of writing advice is that when you complete your first draft, you should take a break and let it rest for at least a week.
This is especially true for NaNoWriMo.
You’ve just written straight for 30 days, you deserve to take a little time out to do things you enjoy.
Like with marinating meat, results will be better once they’ve had time to settle, and you’ve had space from the story so that you can look at it more objectively.
DON’T SUBMIT IT TO AGENTS AND PUBLISHERS STRAIGHT AWAY
One mistake new writers make, especially those who’ve just completed their first novel through NaNoWriMo, is to think once they’ve written the first draft that’s it, and they can send it off to agents and publishers.
This is a bad idea.
As outlined above, you’re best letting a story rest a little. Plus it’s always a good idea to give your novel a couple of read-throughs, and then share it with a few trusted beta readers, before querying it.
That way you weed out spelling and grammar mistakes, as well as plot inconsistencies.
Additionally, SO many writers query straight after NaNoWriMo that agents and publishers are inundated with submissions in December. It might be best to wait for a quieter time to submit, so your story doesn’t get lost in the slush pile.
DO SHARE YOU NOVEL WITH TRUSTED FRIENDS
After taking a break, and then reading your novel again with fresh eyes, it’s a great idea get feedback from some trusted friends. Try to find a small circle that includes other who write in your genre, along with readers you know like the types of novel you’ve written.
Obviously, all final choices are yours and you should take other’s opinions with a pinch of salt, but it’s always recommended to get second opinions from people a little removed from the story, just in case there’s something obvious you’re missing.
DON’T FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE TO WORK ON YOUR NANOWRIMO NOVEL STRAIGHT AWAY
If after your break, you decide you’d rather put your NaNoWriMo novel away for longer, and work on revising another older project, or starting something new, do that. If you’ve got idea in your head, they may distract you from focusing on your NaNo novel.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and in the case of writing, taking a few months away from a novel can help you see it in a different light when you return.
DO READ OTHER THINGS
While you’re taking a writing break read published books. Try to avoid the genre of your NaNo, just in case you accidently let what you read influence you when you’re revising. But look at authors whose work you admire, and look at what’s currently popular, to see what is and isn’t working in literature.
During NaNo, you might have hit a point in your story you weren’t 100% sure about, but decided to come back to because time was limited and you had a word count goal to meet. It could be now, with some time and space from your story, you’re inspired with the perfect solution from something else you read.
DON’T READ TOO MUCH IN YOUR GENRE
This piece of advice works for writing at any time, not just after NaNoWriMo. Obviously, sometimes you have to read in your genre, to know what trends and tropes are popular, and what is working versus what doesn’t.
But it’s also important not to accidently ‘borrow’ from something you’ve read. No author does this intentionally, but it’s all too easy to become wrapped up in someone else’s fictional world, and aspects of it accidently transfer to your own.
You can still find examples of good writing, and literary techniques that work well by reading other genres you enjoy.
DO CELEBRATE OTHER AUTHORS SUCCSESSES
Post-NaNo is a great time to catch up with author friends and see how they fared in November. It’s a good way to bond with other authors when you’re celebrating over your successes, and talking about aspects you particularly like about your NaNo novel.
It’s also great to hear from author who did NaNo previously, and have gone onto land publishing contracts and agents. Nothing is more inspiring than knowing others like you have seceded, and you can too.
DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHER AUTHORS
But be careful when connecting with author authors that you don’t get too wrapped up in comparing yourself to them. So what if Johnny wrote 80k words in November, but you only wrote 50k? Everyone is different, every story is different. It might be that Johnny had taken a month vacation from work especially for NaNo, or that your plot is more complex than theirs and needs extra refinement.
In writing, no one way is right or wrong, and while sharing experiences and getting advice from other authors is good, becoming discouraged because you haven’t done something someone else has will only stifle your creativity. Focus on yourself, your successes and what you want to get out of writing.
This is just a small guide to some things you should and shouldn’t do after NaNoWriMo. Of course, as I’ve already said, there is no right or wrong way when writing a novel, and these tips are based on my own experiences doing NaNoWriMo three times.
Part of the writing process is trial and error, and learning what does and doesn’t work for you.
The important thing is never to forget why you started writing to begin with. For your love of words and stories.