You did it! Or maybe you didn’t do it, didn’t quite hit your word count, didn’t end up with the story you imagined. That’s okay. You have words! And those words are twisting together and stacking high to make a wonderful story. Even if you can’t see it yet, whether you have fifty thousand words or just five thousand, there’s potential in the pages of word vomit you left sitting in a jumbled mess while you sleep for a week. But how do you find it? You survived the month. But what do you do now that NaNoWriMo is over?
Back up your story.
Put it on a flash drive, save it to the cloud, print it out—do something so that you don’t accidentally lose all the hard work you invested in your story. Glitches happen all the time, and losing pages of writing is a very preventable disaster.
Do this first, and do it often. Trust me.
You made it to the end! You’re that much closer to having your own book out there for everyone to read and love and write fanfiction about. You deserve something nice. Treat yo self. Whether you buy yourself something you’ve been wanting or have some friends over for a holiday party or even just pat yourself on the back, make sure you acknowledge that you survived NaNo and came out the other side with all those words written.
Constantly focusing on a to-do list instead of celebrating what you’ve done is bad for your mental health. But taking time to celebrate can actually refresh your outlook and get you excited to keep writing. So basically it’s a win win.
Take a break and do something fun.
If you’re burnt out from writing—and let’s be honest, who wouldn’t be after NaNoWriMo?—just stop writing. Not forever, and definitely not because you hate your story. But taking breaks is good for creativity, and you’re not going to get anywhere on this book if you’re constantly at the end of your creative rope. So set a date when you’re going to come back to your project, or writing in general, then forget about it.
Take a mini vacation. Spend a weekend Christmas shopping with friends or family. Throw a party. Hole up with a book you’ve been meaning to read. Do something that’s not at all related to the behemoth sitting on your computer.
Even better, do something creative that’s not writing. When was the last time you made a magazine collage or painted a self-portrait? Have you wanted to try your hand at photography? Maybe master the art of friendship bracelets? Do you need six dozen Christmas cookies for a bake sale or co-worker presents?
Make something. Bake something. Create something beautiful. But don’t write.
Work on something else.
Spending so much dedicated time with one project can make you hate it. That doesn’t mean you’ll hate it forever, and it doesn’t even mean the work is bad. It just means you spent a month working on nothing else. Honestly, it would be a little weird if you didn’t hate your project at least a little after NaNo.
So work on something else. Pick up a project you haven’t worked on in months, dust it off, and see if you can’t make something happen with it. Start that story you made a Pinterest board for but haven’t started. Don’t write fiction at all. Write a personal essay, or a poem, or a guest post for The Lit Nerds. Keep writing—don’t lose the good habits you fell into during November—but give yourself a break from what might feel like a dead end project. You can always come back to it later.
Research for your novel.
If you’re somehow not tired of your NaNoWriMo project, but you are wildly tired of writing, do some research. Look up that thing you glossed over earlier and figure out when it happened or how it works. Do some character questionnaires and get to know that character you still haven’t quite figured out. Build up parts of your world that aren’t quite fleshed out yet. Read the best books in the genre you’re writing to see how they handled certain things. Writing is one of the few disciplines that you can actually partially learn by osmosis. Read good books and your writing will get a little bit better. (“Good” here meaning well-written, not just books that you like. There’s a big difference.)
Finish word vomiting.
If you’ve got the energy, finish your novel! Keep up the momentum you developed in November and keep word vomiting until you have a complete story arc. If it helps to track your progress, there are plenty of word trackers you can use, just like you did for the month of November. Set your own goals and get that story done! You can do it!
Read your story.
Often, when writing, it’s easy to get so caught up in the visions in your head that you have no idea what’s actually on the page. You’re halfway through your story and you suddenly can’t remember what continent your characters are on or which one had the childhood dog that died. Stop what you’re doing. Print out your story or adjust your view on the computer—something so that you’re looking at a different beast than the one you’ve been staring at all month—and read your story as if you’re coming at it for the first time. This is no longer a story by you, and you have no idea what it’s about or where it’s set. You’re a reader, coming at a book. Read. Take notes on what doesn’t work, on what doesn’t make sense. Don’t edit. Just mark it. And come back to it later.
If you’ve miraculously finished your story arc and have gotten from the beginning of your idea to the end, and you’re not utterly tired of and disgusted with the whole thing, edit! Read back through the entire thing and start rearranging and rewriting. Make a reverse outline and fix your structure. Have someone else read parts you’re unsure of and see what they have to say about it. Have someone else read the entire thing and see if the visions you painstakingly put onto paper make sense to someone else.
Remember, a lot of what you wrote is going to be terrible. You were focused on quantity over quality, and that’s okay. If someone else doesn’t get your vision, that’s okay. Take their opinions and see what you can do so that your story will make sense to them. If you hate everything you wrote and think it’s absolute rubbish, that’s okay. Try to make it a little less like rubbish than it is now. Or stop and come back to it later. If making this hunk of words into an actual story seems like an insurmountable project, that’s okay. It’s not insurmountable. And you won’t always feel that way.
You accomplished so much last month. Make sure you remind yourself just how much of a badass you are for writing as much as you did. Make sure to celebrate with your writing buddies and do a happy dance just for you. Make sure you take care of yourself. Get some sleep. Don’t follow in the tradition of the great writers and die young. Start your own traditions and die old and happy with a bunch of great books under your belt.
You did it! You got through NaNoWriMo! Now go forth and finish what you started.