It’s over, NaNos! One way or another, you survived. Maybe you sauntered to the finish line. Maybe you dragged your half-conscious body. Yes, sadly, some of you didn’t make it. Doesn’t matter. You wrote a novel or part of a novel. That is a huge accomplishment. Congratulations!
Ideally, in the intervening five days, you’ve slept, had a proper meal, and showered. If you haven’t, please go do those things right now. We’ll wait.
As the caffeine tremors subside and your coworkers gradually quit giving you anxious looks and whispering whenever you walk into a room, you might begin to wonder: now what?
It could be that National Novel Writing Month was just an exercise. You wanted to write a novel with cyborgs and mutant chinchillas. And you’ve accomplished that. Well done. We won’t question your choice of recreation; we are writers, after all.
But the majority of you recognize that this is only the beginning. As previously discussed, you probably have a first draft to finish. Otherwise, you have…a first draft. Which is a creature all its own. Never fear–Tate Street High Society hasn’t abandoned you just because it’s December. Here are five things to do now that NaNoWriMo is over:
Make a plan. This is particularly important if your novel isn’t finished. It’s unlikely you’ll continue the frenetic pace you set in November. However, you’d probably still like to finish your novel before next NaNoWriMo. It’s time to set some reasonable goals. Maybe you only have time to write 15 minutes a day or an hour a week. The important thing is to show up and keep writing.
Put it away. When you finish your novel, this is the next step. It’s important to remember that there’s no rush. If writing a first draft is a lively quickstep, editing is the ultimate slow jam. Give yourself time to forget the exhaustion and excitement of NaNoWriMo. Put your novel in a drawer for at least a month. Come back to it when you can barely remember parts of what you’ve written. Come back to it as a stranger, in other words, and assess it that way.
Read. Almost certainly, the only book you’ve thought about for the last thirty days is your own. Which is fine–but we say get back to reading! Reading novels, after all, is the best way to learn about novels. So as you’re letting your own book ferment, read for further knowledge and inspiration. And fun! Do us a favor and throw some poetry in there, too.
Continue your community. One of the most amazing parts of NaNoWriMo is the friends you make. Maybe you were Queen of the message boards or you hosted a meet-up. Maybe you had a whole group of friends who committed to writing novels together. Excellent. Keep in touch with those people. Form a workshop and/or a support group. Start a book club. Meet for coffee once a month. Have write-ins! Trash that “solitary writer” stereotype.
Start a new project. I know what you’re saying. “I don’t have time for new projects. I just spent a month writing a novel!” Relax. It doesn’t have to be big. It doesn’t even have to be a writing project. Try Sudoku. Brush up on your high school French. Build a bird feeder. Whatever you want. But find a way to fill the NaNo void, even in some small way. Continue that positive reinforcement and productivity.
And stay tuned! TSHS will continue its conversations about the writing process all year long. We hope you’ll join the discussion.
About the Author: Julia Patt
Julia Patt, Contributing Editor, from Chestertown, MD, is a graduate of Sweet Briar College and the MFA program at the University of North Carolina Greensboro, where she was a fiction editor for The Greensboro Review. Her young adult novels—i was a fourth grade zombie slayer and Through Waterless Places—were both shortlisted for Mslexia’s 2012 Children’s Novel Competition, and her short fiction has appeared in publications such as Surreal South ’11, Stymie, and PANK.