What's Next?Yes, NaNo is over, but your writing isn't confined to one autumn month a year. And your book still has a ways to go, regardless of how many words you were able to type. So what is the next step in the process?
Make a Goal and Keep WritingIf you weren't able to finish your novel, never fear! Now's the time to set a new goal. Perhaps you didn't hit the fifty thousand you were shooting for. Can you get there by the end of the year? Can you get there by mid January? Maybe you did hit the 50K, but the story isn't over. Can you estimate how much is left to be written? If you can't, that's okay. Instead of making a word-count goal, make a goal for how much time you'll spend writing during the week. It could be a daily goal of three hours or a weekly goal of five. Whatever your goal is, try to make it attainable as well as useful. A weekly goal of one hour isn't going to be that helpful, but it is better than not writing anything at all.
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Revise, Revise, ReviseIf you were able to finish your novel, that's great! I suggest taking a day or two to relax and let the text just sit. The next step in publishing your novel is not to send it off to a publisher right away (as editor Lisa Mangum mentioned in our recent interview). You've been writing as much and as quickly as possible, so there are bound to be a few typos, errors, plot-holes, or even missing scenes. Now is the time to go back through your novel and figure out where the problems are. First, save a new copy of your manuscript. Title it something like, "Book Revision 1." That way, if you delete an entire chapter one day during revisions and then decide you want it back on another day, you still have an original file with everything you once wrote.
After you've saved your previous work, you are ready to start revising. One way to do this is to just read the story. Fix any typos you come across immediately. For bigger things you want to change or fix, highlight the text, bold it, and insert a query to yourself. You may even want to make a master list of all the changes you want to make. If you are inspired to include a new scene or chapter, add that to the list. Once you've gotten through the entirety of the manuscript, go through your master list and begin making the changes. Go through the manuscript a couple of times in this fashion, making notes to yourself and adding or subtracting different elements. It may also help to read the text aloud.
Once you feel like your revisions are where you want them to be, take your manuscript to a reader. This can be your writing buddy, your writing group, or even your sister-in-law who loves to read. Ask them to make comments and suggestions as they read. Their comments can be invaluable in the revision process. You may be too close to the manuscript to see errors like, "Wait, I thought Carly had brown hair," or "Is there a word missing here? The sentence is confusing." So the fresh eyes of your reader(s) can help find these problems.
Revisions can take some time, so try not to get frustrated. If you do, take a break from the manuscript and let it sit for a day or two. But remember, you're almost ready to submit your manuscript for publication, so don't give up!
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Until Next NaNo . . .I still have quite a ways to go with my NaNo novel, but it was such a blast to give the whole "write a book in a month" thing a shot. I hope all of you had as much fun as I did! Feel free to return to these NaNo posts if you ever find yourself stuck in a writing rut. And hey, if you're missing NaNo, here's one last suggestion that my writing buddy, Katherine, and I came up with: Make your own mini NaNoWriMo. Call it My Novel Writing Week (MyNoWriWee? MyNo for short!), and make a word goal. Can you write 10K this MyNo? Or maybe *gulp* 25K? You can do it!
Have a great year. Keep writing—don't stop—and I'll see you next November when we take on NaNoWriMo all over again!
Farewell, fellow NaNo-ers!
Current Word Count: (sigh) 32,685