I Finished NaNoWriMo, Now What?

Hi, SEers! Mae here. It turns out I have one more NaNoWriMo post to share. Congratulations to all who participated, and a special cyber cheer to those who “won.” No matter how many words you added in November, I applaud you for taking on the challenge and shining a spotlight on the writing community. I ended the month with a smidgen over 35K, progress I’m more than happy with.

Now, it’s December. All the fanfare and fuss of writing at light-speed is over, but now it’s time to begin clean-up. Even if you push this off past the holidays (or later) eventually you’re going to need to take a hard look at your manuscript. If you didn’t participate, you can apply these tips to any WIP in your arsenal.

woman holding mop and cleaning disenfectant

If you started your WIP from scratch, 50K is too short for many genres. It works for some YA, some sub-genre romance, and some westerns. If you’re writing mysteries, thrillers, suspense, horror, crime, mainstream romance, historical, sci-fi or fantasy you’re going to need at least another 20K to 50K depending on the genre. I stick with mystery and suspense which falls between 70K and 90K. My target word count for any manuscript is always roughly 80K.

You’ve just spent thirty days (or longer) immersed in your WIP—vomiting daily word counts onto the computer screen, living with your characters, dreaming about your characters, having scenes revolve in your head almost 24/7. It’s time to give yourself a break. Distance yourself for at least a week or longer. Two is a good time frame, but don’t lose the momentum you gained from NaNoWriMo. Do writing prompts, brainstorm other ideas, keep your creativity flowing.

My first experience with NaNoWriMo produced A Thousand Yesteryears. I wrote just over 50K, then didn’t touch the manuscript again until June of the following year when I added another 30K to reach the end. That’s a long time to let a WIP rest (I worked on other projects in between). Most writers tackle their NaNo projects again in December, but whenever you return to your manuscript there are several things you’re going to want to do.

After giving yourself space, it’s time to reread your WIP from start to finish. Make notes as you go, looking for plot holes or story threads that lead nowhere. Flesh out scenes that are too sparse while cutting those that don’t propel the plot and act as filler. Those items you didn’t have time to research during NaNo? Now’s the time to double check your facts, add details, and make sure all dots connect and are plausible.

close up of woman's hand with pen resting on open tablet, coffee cup to the side

The first of many edits. I’m a writer who normally—NaNo aside—polishes and edits each scene as I write. I end up with a pretty clean manuscript by the time I reach the end, but even then, I edit, polish, edit, and polish again. With a NaNo manuscript, I have a lot more polishing to undertake. The next stage is to share your ms with beta readers or critique partners, but before you do, make your work as clean as you can for them.

Time to share. I work with a critique partners, so I share a chapter at a time, fixing any issues based on their feedback, rather than sending the whole manuscript at once. It’s easier on me to correct problems, and easier for them with turnaround time. Many writers prefer to send the entire manuscript to beta readers. There is no right or wrong way but having another set of eyes—or several—on your manuscript is beneficial for flushing out potential glitches.

Yes, you polished before, but it’s time to do it again. Based on the information you received from your CPs or beta readers, you may need to make changes. Regardless, go through your manuscript, proofing and tightening. Let it rest, then do it again. Be meticulous. Make it as flawless as possible.

Time to decide what to do with your masterpiece. If you’re going to indie publish, I recommend hiring a professional editor before sending your baby into the world. Other options are to submit queries to small online publishing houses or seek an agent. If you choose either of these, you’re going to need patience while you wait for replies, which usually run several months out. Make use of that time by beginning another project. Above all else, keep writing. It’s what we do!

Even if you didn’t participate in NaNoWriMo, I hope you found this post helpful. Are the stages I outlined above, ones you generally use when you’re wrapping up a WIP? I’m going to be without internet access a good portion of the day today, but my Story Empire colleagues will be replying to comments when I’m unable—so please share your thoughts. 🙂

Ready, set, go!

Bio box for author, Mae Clair

50 thoughts on “I Finished NaNoWriMo, Now What?

  1. You’re listed some pretty great tips. It’s a bummer that NaNoWriMo created a ‘Now What?’ challenge of editing and polishing before this post was written. Can’t wait to try out your tips. Thanks for this post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, there! Thanks for dropping by to share. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I put my NaNo projects away for a time, too. Not as long as you do, but definitely to give breathing room. I think the one I did this year I will probably focus on a lot earlier than usual. For me, that means January of 2021.
      Good luck with your editing. You’re definitely seeing your project with fresh eyes!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on The Write Stuff and commented:

    I’m a day late, but don’t let that stop you from checking out Mae Clair’s excellent post on what to do after finishing your NaNoWriMo challenge. Her advice is excellent and works well for any WIP, Nano or not. I think you’ll get some good ideas from what she has to say, and I hope you’ll share them with all your social media pals. Thanks, and thanks to Mae for such a great post! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I prefer to edit as I go. That makes NaNo difficult. I did participate last year, but my schedule didn’t let me this year. Last year’s project will never see the light of day, but the characters, places, and a few scenes will be in an upcoming WIP. The rest is total crap. I guess you live and learn, 35K good words is better than 50K crap. Just my two cents.

    I also use CPs and professional editing.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Congrats on the word count, Mae. I’m an edit as you go writer which makes NaNo hard for me. I did it last year and I’m still cleaning up the mess I made. (I didn’t touch the manuscript for several months.)

    I also work with critique partners a chapter at a time and edit those when I get feedback.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I know that many of the ‘experts’ say, just write and edit later. Like you, I can’t do that. I edit as I go and share a chapter at a time with my sister and with a critique group. So, by the time I reach the end, it’s fairly polished. But, the advice you give here to let the manuscript rest before tackling it again is golden. No matter how many times you read through a manuscript, you’ll always find things to tweak. Congrats on your 35K word count, Mae! That’s an awesome reward for a month of hard work! Thank you for sharing/1

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I edit as I go, too. Can’t face an entire messy manuscript. Yay for you that you got 35K words! And you’re dedicated enough to take the time to edit all of them thoroughly. (That’s the part I can’t face). Good luck with finishing the entire book. I can’t wait to read it!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Is it selfish that I’m happy to hear there are others who like to edit as they go? I’m usually the only one. lol

      Mae did a great job during NaNo this year. 35K usable words in 30 days is a great achievement. I’ll be right there with you in line to read the finished work, Judi.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Congrats on the 35K, Mae! That’s awesome. Excellent tips. Agree, agree, agree. Like you, I edit as I go. I can’t bear the thought of an unedited 1st draft. Editing the previous day’s work also helps me to get back in the groove of the story.

    Best of luck to all NaNos!

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Congratulations, Mae! What an achievement — 35,000 words! Your post is very helpful and applies to folks like me who adopt a NaNoWriMo mindset at times and write furiously — only to encounter the dreaded pause. 😊 Thank you for sharing your hard-earned wisdom with all of us.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Great thoughts, Mae. I (like you) edit as I go. I find it makes for a cleaner copy to work with when I start editing. I know most writers feel it slows down their creative flow. But in the end, whatever process works for the writer is what works for the writer. As long as we all keep working!

    Congratulations on 35K! That’s great!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Jill, I love the idea that, as writers, we can tackle are own NaNo projects any month we choose, and that the NaNoWriMo website even gives us the ability to track word count. I know how much you wanted to participate. Doing NaNo in January sounds like an excellent start to a New Year! 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

    • Hi, Stuart. Thank you for the great comment—and a “NaNo hangover” is the perfect phrase to address how participants feel in December, LOL!

      I’m glad you found my post helpful. Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

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