You’ve hit the 50K word mark with barely a minute to spare. Congratulations! You’ve won the NaNoWriMo challenge. You’ve created the framework for a novel, with enough substance that you can imagine the finished product. Now what?
Finish what you’ve started.
Most likely, you have a nearly completed manuscript. If you haven’t quite finished the story, keep working until you do. Momentum is on your side. There’s value in finishing a project, even if you only took on NaNoWriMo to challenge yourself. You’ll learn how to get through writing the sticky middle. You’ll figure out how to end a story. You’ll prove to yourself that you can do it. Remember, an unfinished manuscript will never become a book, so finish this one. You’re almost there.
Really. You deserve it. Many people talk about writing a novel but few will achieve their goal. When I finish the draft of a new novel, even if it’s taken me more than the month of November to complete, I do something special to mark the occasion. Go out to dinner. Drink a glass of champagne. Brag to your spouse. Enjoy this moment! You’ve written a book.
Appreciate the good habits you’ve created.
To reach the NaNoWriMo word count required discipline and commitment. Maybe you’ve learned something about your own best practices. Maybe you’ve learned how to step outside your comfort zone. Whatever the case, for a month you’ve had to set a goal for the day, the week, the month, and then figure out how to achieve that goal. Don’t lose those good habits!
Get some distance from this manuscript.
Once you’ve finished the draft, consider stepping away from it for a little while to gain perspective. It takes an enormous amount of mental energy to birth a book, and when we’ve finished, we’re likely exhausted. We also are too close to see the potential pitfalls and weaknesses in our story or characters. When I finish a manuscript, I am so invested it the story, and so exhausted from getting it out on the page, that I have no perspective. I have to put it away and work on something else for a little while. This gives me the space I need to be able to objectively improve upon it later.
Come back with fresh eyes and prepare to edit.
A little distance can go a long way. It gives us enough perspective to improve our manuscript and allows time for the creative process to reignite. No manuscript is perfect on the first try. When I’m ready to edit my manuscript, I always try to get into a positive mindset. I want my manuscript to be the best it can be. I care about my readers’ experience. I want a polished version of my story to be the one the public reads. To do that, I have to put the work in after the first draft is finished. You do too!
Write something else.
Whether or not your NaNoWriMo manuscript ever sees the light of day, you’ve proven to yourself that you can write a book. You can use that experience, and the good habits you’ve developed, to write the next book. And the next. And the next.
Congratulations on finishing the NaNoWriMo challenge and I hope you’ll keep writing!