Well, well. Another year of NaNoWriMo is over. For some of you, it may have dragged by. For others, it probably passed in the blink of an eye. And some of you will have completed manuscripts, while others, not so much…
If you managed to hit 50,000 words, congratulations! Completing such a lengthy work is a huge achievement. You deserve a pat on the back. As for those who didn’t hit 50,000? You deserve kudos, too. Even if you didn’t hit your goals, you still parked your butt in the chair and gave it your best shot. A lot of people can’t say the same.
So, now that December 1 has rolled around, the question becomes, “What do I do with this manuscript?” The answer depends on where you are in the writing process.
If your story is incomplete, keep writing
NaNo may be over, but that doesn’t mean your work is done. Keep writing until your story is finished. If you have it in you, stick to your NaNoWriMo writing schedule. It will help you stay motivated and on course. Do this through December, January, February — as long as it takes, until you can finally type “THE END” on the last page of your masterpiece!
If your story is complete, put the manuscript away
And not just for a day. Not even a week. I’m talking a couple of months. It’s impossible to objectively judge your writing when it’s still so fresh in your mind — and when you can’t objectively judge it, you certainly can’t give it an effective and thorough edit.
You may be tempted to open the document and tinker with it. Resist! Do what you have to do to make sure you won’t read it. Back it up onto an external hard drive and the cloud, then remove it from your computer. Password protect the document to make it harder to access (just don’t forget the password). Print it off, stick it in a legal-sized envelope, then shove it in a drawer in the recesses of your basement.
Just don’t open the document. Not yet.
Start a new writing project
This will be especially tempting if you’re writing a series. It never hurts to jot down some ideas or draft an outline of your next book while the juices are still flowing. This also has the benefit of distracting you from the story you just finished for as long as it takes to distance yourself from it both mentally and emotionally.
Take a break
Hey, you worked your butt off this November! Maybe it’s time to step away from the keyboard, or put down the pen, and take some time for yourself. Reclaim your social life. Immerse yourself in a really good book. Binge watch a TV series on Netflix. Dedicate yourself to a different hobby for a little while.
When we write, we spend a lot of time in our own heads. But when we spend too long there, we run the risk of stagnating. Writing can’t be the only thing we have in our lives. It’s important that we get out and let ourselves be inspired by reality. Meet new people! Get a new perspective on an issue! If you’re lucky, you might trip over a shiny new idea for another novel.
So, what are you doing now that NaNo is over?