NaNoWriMo Chronicles: What Happens After NaNoWriMo?
Alright, you’ve buckled down and finished.
You’ve run the race and won.
You probably felt the great height of joy and the deep depths of despair. Sometimes within the same hour.
BUT you’ve managed to make it.
You wrote a novel in 30 days.
Print it off. Hold it in your hands. Relish the moment. Then, take a break.
I would even say take a long break. I mean, a loooooooong break.
Walk away from your baby and leave it alone. Let it rest. Let your mind wander to other places.
This break from your manuscript will allow you to complete the next steps with a sense of clarity and understanding that you wouldn’t have if you dived right back into the mass of words you’ve created.
This break looks different from person to person. Some writers work on other pieces but never leaving their hobby of writing alone. This is what I do, and I choose to do this for many reasons. First, writing is more than a hobby for me. It’s my primary creative outlet. Even amongst my other creative endeavors, I don’t feel like myself if I’m not writing. It’s also my ideal. In a perfect world, I would spend all day every day creating worlds for readers to play in. And it would pay the bills. So, I never really walk away from writing completely. I change what I’m working on, from fiction to nonfiction, from narrative to poetry, and from novels to short stories. I mix it up. Especially after a NaNoWriMo. So, whatever a break looks like for you - take it.
After your break, what’s next? Slap a cover on it and sell it!
Just kidding. Now comes the hard part. Editing.
This is the part where it’s helpful to have friends that like to read. You can recruit them to read your work for you. Even if they don’t have experience editing their input is important. Another set of eyes and another brain processing the information can help you find plot holes you might overlook, the places where the narrative doesn’t make sense, and where your characters fall flat. If you have friends that like to write, even better! They can help you with structures that are more technical in writing. They can help you with grammar, style, and all those complicated things that someone who reads casually can’t always put words to. Both perspectives are important and valuable.
Whether you have friends to help or not, there are things you can do to help yourself edit your work on your own. Just like prep work from before you wrote your novel you get to do some reading. I highly suggest that if you don’t have any training on editing a narrative work or any editing training or experience at all that you check out the following books:
The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile - Noah Lukeman
Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace - Joseph Williams and Joseph Bizup
The First Five Pages will help you take small steps to improve your manuscript one chapter at a time. Lukeman has given very sound, practical advice and gives you clear ways of improving a work you have already finished. Style is a wonderful book for anyone who ever plans to write anything ever. It helped to carry me through my college career of analyzing classical literature and trying to write my own creative works. It’s a lifesaver.
Another step that I find to be helpful for authors looking to edit their own work is to read it out loud. I don’t mean sit down and read the whole thing from start to finish out loud in one go, but sit down and really take the time to read, to yourself, your work one chapter at a time out loud. You will find that sentences that made sense in your head stop working when you read them out and let your ears hear them. It will help you find things that are too complicated, not complicated enough, and the parts that just don’t fit. I do this with everything I write that I intend to share. From my poems to my literature analysis, it all gets read out loud to my dog.
Editing will take a long time. If you feel like you have accomplished your editing in a month, I promise you are missing something. Often times editing takes longer than writing the novel itself takes. Allow the process to take its time. It will make it easier to change the parts of your beloved manuscript that you’ve worked so hard to create that need to be changed. Taking the time to edit something well will save you heartache later on. Take the time after NaNoWriMo has died down to give your work the editing it deserves. Give yourself the time to edit that you deserve.
Then take another break.