You did it – you made it to the end of National Novel Writing Month 2022!
Whether you hit the 50,000-word count or not, you finished the month strong and find yourself, now, with a complete or mostly complete manuscript. Congratulations!
But many of you might already be wondering: what’s next for me and my manuscript?
First, take a deep breath. And, possibly, a break. Don’t dive back into that manuscript right away. Take some time to celebrate. Anywhere from a weekend to a couple of weeks is appropriate; you want to give yourself some time away from writing (that project, anyway – some of you are full time writers) and refresh your creativity.
Once you’ve taken a step back, you can return to what you’ve written with fresh eyes and decide where to go next. You have plenty of options:
Continue writing – this is the option for many NaNoWriMo participants: most novels are longer than 50,000 words, after all! A romance novel, for example, usually clocks in around 70-90k. A sci-fi or fantasy title can easily be double that, at 100k. Mystery and thriller, much like romance, tend to hover around 70k on average. If you write in any of these genres, you might be thinking about how much you still have left to write.
Our suggestion? Make a plan and take it slower than you did during NaNoWriMo! Sure, you can still have a deadline – but it doesn’t need to be
If you feel the manuscript is done, however, great! You can fill out the gaps during the editing process, and who knows – you might find yourself with 20,000 extra words anyway! Whether you choose to continue with the same manuscript or begin editing so you can finalize it and begin working on the next, do what feels write for not just the novel, but for yourself.
Start editing – so, you’re happy with your 50,000 or so words and want to begin the editing process. This can be a big step to take – if you edit yourself, you’re looking at anywhere from another 3 to 6 months before a polished book is ready for publication. Sometimes, it may take even longer depending on how much work must be done. Be ready to commit, much like you did to the writing process, for the long haul!
If you’re hiring an editor, you may be able to get the work done faster – or longer, depending on the editor’s schedule. Again, consider this as a six-month long commitment to avoid any future disappointment, but expect that that timeline will change. In traditional publishing, the entire publication process can take anywhere from eight to eighteen months; indie publishing may be somewhat faster, but again, it isn’t always! Be ready for this next big – and much longer – step in the life of your NaNoWriMo novel.
For those of you who are familiar with the editing process already, then the next best step is to follow your non-NaNoWriMo schedule regarding editorial. Don’t let the fact that you wrote this whole book
Begin again – this one is probably the most daunting, and the hardest to admit to yourself, but yes: it’s totally okay to choose to start over. Dump the draft (before or after picking parts of it out to keep for the next one) and begin again. Write from square one. There’s no shame in disliking your NaNoWriMo draft. But remember: writing the draft was not a waste of time.
In fact, it was a great use of your time. You developed commitment skills, writing techniques, and worked out the semblance of a story. You plotted, you pored over character development, you shaped the seed of an idea into a whole manuscript! That’s something to proud of. Any time spent writing is time well spent if you are a writer.
Since beginning your manuscript over again can be a big decision to make, don’t be afraid to get some advice. Head over to the NaNoWriMo forums, talk to your writer friends, or simply sit down and think it over: make a list of pros and cons, expectations, and what you want to implement from your old manuscript, if anything – and we’re sure there will be something! Rarely is a draft truly “useless” – there is always something that can be salvaged, polished, and made presentable in your next project!
And here are some more ideas for what to do next – these ones are a little more fun, but still pack in a lot of the business of writing:
Plan for your cover – once the editing process has begun, it’s a great idea to start thinking of some cover concepts. Think of some keywords, research some cover designers, and look at other covers in your genre. If you are going to hire a cover designer, make some notes on what you’re looking for, or even go as far as to source some images. If you are designing your own cover, do the same! Make notes, draft concepts, and find, create, or purchase images to use. Be sure to also research cover standards and file types for indie publishing sites or for print-on-demand services. You want that cover looking crisp!
Commission some art of your characters – have you ever commissioned an artist before? If not, now’s the time! You just spent an entire month envisioning your characters, developing them, and telling their tale. Considering getting some artwork drawn of your main characters. Or, if you’re an artist yourself, draw them if you haven’t already! This art is a great way to dress up your novel and make it feel more finalized as you dive into the editing period. Plus – what a nice gift to yourself after completing that first draft!
Make a marketing plan – this might be way down the line, but it doesn’t hurt to start thinking of marketing now. Make a general marketing plan for the release of your novel, such as who you want to market it to and how you might do that and which platforms you will use. If you have a newsletter or Patreon, maybe use it as an opportunity to keep your readers in the know on the status of your new book. Or, see how much advertisements would cost and what you can do it start budgeting for them. Whatever marketing approach you end up taking, it’s never too early to start exploring your options.
Send your draft out for beta reads – have your friends shown interest in reading your book? Made a few new ones on the NaNoWriMo forums? Reach out to these folks and see if they would be interested in reading over your draft. Warn them that it will be messy – but that’s part of the fun. They can make early suggestions and help you get some new ideas and fresh perspectives before you head into the editing process.
We hope these suggestions have helped you determine what next steps to take with your NaNoWriMo project. From everyone at the KWL team and at Kobo, congratulations on your involvement in National Novel Writing Month 2022!