When you finish:
- Sit on it. Don’t immediately launch into editing it, don’t go back and look at rewrites, don’t take extra notes unless you desperately need to, just sit on it. Put it away for awhile, do other things, read a book. This story has consumed your life for a month, and you need some distance from it before you go back and see what you can do to improve it. Breathe a little, you need a break, even if you don’t think you do.
- Don’t send it out to agents/publishers. Don’t send your first draft of anything to a publisher until you’ve gotten a chance to reread it, rework it, or at least tweak it. There’s a slosh of people who immediately submit their NaNo projects to everyone and everywhere without bothering to rework it first – some don’t even finish the story. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot like that; give it time, work on it, then send it in when you feel it’s ready. That way you won’t get lost in the deluge.
- Do Brag. A Lot. You wrote a novel! WOOHOO.
- Do treat yourself. YOU WROTE A NOVEL. Go do something nice. :3
If you aren’t finished:
- Finish. You’ve worked this hard on it and you’re gonna give up now because you didn’t win the bullshit internet contest that doesn’t actually matter? Nah, fuck that, man. You keep going until you reach the end.
- No really, finish. You’ve worked hard on this. You will feel so much better if you can slap an ‘the end’ on it, even if it takes you longer to do that. The biggest thing between you and success is not finishing your work. Write until you reach the end. You’ll be happy you did.
- It’s okay to take a break too. Hey, you got shit to do! You can settle down and breathe a bit, even if you’re still working on it. Don’t guilt yourself into misery. Set a pace and be sure to breathe.
- When you do finish, brag. You wrote a novel! WOOHOO.
Woohoo! You participated in NaNoWriMo and fell short! Hi-five, time to go stab the bragging winners in the eye! Wait, no, don’t do that. The great news, fellow failers (I’m 15000 words short), is that you participated in NaNoWriMo! Don’t give me that look, hear me out. Here is what participating in NaNo given you:
- Workable story ideas, an outline, and at least a decent start. This is super important! Sometimes starting can be the hardest thing to do, and coming out of NaNo with that start gives you a hell of a lot more than what you had before it.
- An idea of writing pace and your capabilities. Nobody should feel bad because they can’t hammer out 50000 words during final season/holiday season/etc. C’mon now, that’s not what this exercise was about. Even if you had to hit it and quit it in the first week, you should still have had a chance to sit down and see how much you can write within a given amount of time. That’s progress, believe it or not, and it’ll help you formulate your writing habits later.
- The importance of a shitty first draft. NaNoWriMo brings a plethora of articles every year about whether you can write a good novel in a month, and all of them completely miss the fact that no one is setting out to produced a polished, publishable book – they’re hammering out a first draft. You need a shitty first draft. I cannot stress that hard enough. If you look carefully at the published writers who’ve promoted NaNo, many of them say it helped them get to their final novel – but it wasn’t their only step.Don’t let the idea of your first draft being shit drag you down; you need that to get better.
If you haven’t finished yet, your next goal is to finish. Now that the constant drive is gone, that might have become harder. I spent my working hours yesterday with the goal of getting right back to my story, and ended up drinking too much whiskey at a expat Thanksgiving party instead. It’s okay to do that! The trick is to get right back on the writing train. Here’s some things you should do to finish that NaNo project:
- Set goals. You don’t need to get over a 1000 words now, but you do need to stick to a steady pace. Pick a pace that you can keep to in the weeks ahead.
- Make it worth it. You might be facing pressure now that the ‘writing month’ is done to stop focusing on your writing. Don’t give in. Reward yourself and take breaks, but don’t let anyone talk you out of finishing – including yourself.
- Enlist help. You might find your finished writing buddies drift away, but don’t let them take your support system with you. Recruit fellow unfinisheders to race to the end with you. Stay in contact with forum buddies. Keep going to those places that really let your creativity flow.
- When you do finish, celebrate like mad. You did it! You did the thing millions of people want to do, but never get the chance. You wrote a novel!