And that’s that. It’s December 1st. November is at an end. NaNoWriMo is over. Writers everywhere have put down their laptops and pens–possibly thrown them out windows–and now have the daunting task of dealing with the tornado of words that NaNoWriMo has left them with. But…what is that?
If you didn’t reach your 50,000 words, don’t worry about it! That doesn’t mean you failed or anything. Whether it was a lack of time or a busted plot, don’t let it sour NaNo for you. There is always next year! Besides, some people just aren’t wired to write the NaNo way, and that is also fine. Everyone writes in the way that works for them, and no way is wrong.
Now, say that you did get to 50k. First off, CONGRATS! Whether it’s your first or fifteenth time, reaching 50k is always a thrill, especially if you had some trouble along the way. Which you would have, unless you are inhuman. Maybe your book finished in 50,000 words, maybe it didn’t. Either way, there are some options for what you can do now that apply to any word count–just make sure to finish up the book first! If you do have to finish up the book, I recommend you write at the same fervored pace of NaNo. You’d be surprised just how much your writing style changes when you aren’t writing to win, and whether you are at halfway or nearly done, that is not a good thing.
The first step after NaNo is always the hardest. First, you have to actually review what you’ve written with a critical eye. After writing, of course, you have to edit, and now that moment has come. Avoid the urge to burn the manuscript–I know it’s strong, but it’s not the right thing to do. Even if you are utterly convinced your novel is crap, there is always, ALWAYS some gems to be found within them, whether it’s a sentence, a description or some other little passage or character–anything! Sometimes it’s just fun to read through the parts that you wrote in delirium. For example, during one midnight writing sequence I started writing editing notes under my chapter headings to remind myself of a plot change that occured right after my sweet, innocent, blonde narrator up and killed someone. The notes get progressivly worse and culminate in my favorite about my main character (Shadowed Thoughts spoilers ahead!):
Do you see what you did at the end there? You’re a genius. Now make it look like you MEANT to have Natalia’s power overrunning her own head and warping her mind with other peoples’ thoughts. Thank you.
Even if I hadn’t enjoyed myself during NaNo, pretty sure it all would have been worth it just for that.
So then you’ve reviewed. What next? Well, that’s your choice. It’s perfectly okay to stuff the book in a closet and leave it for another date. You aren’t required to do ANYTHING with your NaNo. Not even edit it, or even review it. NaNo is FUN, remember? If that’s your choice than that’s your choice. Don’t let what other people are doing influence your choice. Do what feels comfortable to you.
If you decide to move forward, your first step is to edit. Edit, edit, edit. Edit until you are blue in the face. My NaNo editing starts with me editing the book myself, and then I send it off to three friends for their edits. People say that a critique circle is one of the most important tools a writer can have, and they aren’t lying. Remember, if there is someone or someones you want to edit your novel, they should be people you trust to be perfectly frank. The “Oh, you’re amazing!” from your mom or whatever is nice to hear, but not helpful.
My editing and waiting for edits back from my friends usually takes until about June, when the CreateSpace offer is set to expire. If you’ve checked out My Books, then you know that I self-publish my NaNos through CreateSpace. This is one possible option for your NaNo, even if you don’t want to push the books to the general public. When I first wrote Mind Evolution, my first book that was self-published after NaNoWriMo 2009, I hadn’t planned on selling them. It was just for me and my sense of accomplishment. There is nothing quite like holding a print copy of something you wrote in your hands. I tend to recommend at least redeeming the free proof copy order, because it’s just that amazing.
Some people don’t believe in self-publishing, and that is fine. If you think your NaNo is good enough for the agent route, good luck! I’m sure you know plenty about agents and publishing houses and all that other stuff that could overload a blog if I tried to get it all into one post. Don’t think that just because your novel is a NaNo means that it isn’t a good piece of work, no matter how much I’ve called NaNos crap. Plenty of them have been published, and at least one–Water for Elephants–was made into a movie.
NaNoWriMo was a challenge to exceed your limits. Even if you didn’t win, it doesn’t matter. Even trying has allowed you to break barriers in your limitations. Now, the sky is your limit. Enjoy the ride, bask in your glory and…LET’S GET PSYCHED FOR NEXT YEAR!