Congratulations, you made it to the end of NaNoWriMo! It was a big commitment, and whether or not you hit your word goal, you made major progress. For that, you deserve to be commended. The questions is…what now? You might have half a novel or a third of one, or, for the very lucky, most of a whole. The problem is, although it’s amazing you got tens of thousands of words down in one little month, those words probably aren’t ready for prime time. If you recently completed a first draft, whether from NaNoWriMo or efforts during the “regular season,” read on to find out what comes next.
Read what you wrote during NaNoWriMo.
No matter where you are after NaNoWriMo, stop and read what you’ve written. The goal of NaNo is to write as much as possible in thirty days. That has its utility, but it’s also a bit of a harried rush. Unless you had an excellent, well-crafted outline, there’s a decent change you’ve been feeling your way through the story and probably have a few false starts or extraneous scenes here and there. The main thing is: you need to know where you’ve landed. What do you have? Before you attempt any analysis or consider edits, first take the time to sit down and read what’ve you written from start to wherever you finished.
So…what did you think?
You’ve read your pages. What are your thoughts? Do you have a coherent, if incomplete story? Was it brilliant? Now is the time to take stock. Do you like your overall story enough to plunge on until The End, or do you want to fix up what you already wrote before you finish the ending? Maybe you want to throw the whole thing away and start over? Before you decide on anything, consider how you’ve felt about the process so far.
Did you like being focused one hundred percent on the creative process or, did you like plunging forward with the story day after day, pushing for word count? If so, I’d keep up the momentum. Go until you’re done, and then edit the completed draft. Need some help writing a strong ending? Check out our latest Ask Inkitt post.
Did you find it difficult to hit word count or even be motivated to write every day because you felt foggy—like you weren’t sure where you were going? If this is the case, my recommendation would be to evaluate what worked, decide what didn’t, and then figure out where to take it next. If you choose this option, it’ll almost certainly take longer to get to The End, but the draft might be stronger and clearer.
What if you have to toss it?
If you hated everything you wrote and truly want nothing more than to hit delete on the whole file and eat a carton of ice cream, I recommend taking a little break. Give it a week or longer—whenever you feel less exhausted by the effort—and look at it again. Surely not everything is terrible. Once you’ve taken that step away, you should be able to identify the wheat from the chaff more easily.
If you’re asking yourself what to do after NaNoWriMo, the answer is: give yourself a pat on the back. You truly did accomplish a lot. After that, the name of the game is evaluation. If you don’t feel you can tell what’s good or bad, find beta readers. A trusted, kind, but sharp eye can be invaluable. Happy editing!