It’s almost December 1st, which means National Novel Writing Month is coming to a close...
For those of you who participated in NaNoWriMo, please take a moment to acknowledge all the hard work you’ve done! No matter how much you wrote last month, you’re doing something that many people talk about, but few begin—and even fewer finish—you’re writing a book!
And if you did “win” NaNoWriMo, CONGRATULATIONS! That’s a HUGE achievement, and you should do something fun to celebrate!
Now, if you’re anything like me, chances are good that you’re already wondering what the heck you should do next with your messy-NaNo-draft. You might be wondering:
If you’ve been wondering about any of that, you’re in the right place.
In today’s post, I’m sharing the first five things to do with your draft now that NaNoWriMo’s over. These five steps will help you clear your head and get back on track for whatever the next phase looks like for you. So, let’s dive in.
Your mind needs a little rest and recuperation time, so the first thing I suggest is taking a well-deserved break.
As Stephen King says, “Your mind and imagination—two things which are related, but not really the same—have to recycle themselves, at least in regard to this one particular work.” King suggests a six-week break from your work, but for a lot of writers, six weeks will feel too long.
So, give yourself at least three to four weeks to decompress and refill your creative well. Do other things you enjoy like gardening, taking mini-vacations, or spending time with family.
You could even read some books in your genre and make notes of the parts you like best. Reading the works of a writer who “got it right” will not only teach you how to write better, but it will also inspire you to get back into your own draft and get started on revisions.
When you do come back to your NaNo-draft, read the whole thing through without stopping to correct anything, or make any changes.
The purpose of this initial read through is to familiarize yourself with what you wrote and to see all of the story pieces that you have to work with.
I highly suggest keeping a notebook near you while you read so that you can jot down any initial thoughts and feelings—just don’t go back and edit your actual draft.
This time you’ll want to perform a more thorough read-through of your draft with your editor’s hat on. Focus on the six big-picture elements of story and take notes on things you want to fix, add, delete, or change. Don’t actually make the changes in your draft—just take notes.
In addition to your “things I want to fix list,” I highly recommend keeping a list of things you like about your story, too. It’s inevitable that at some point you’ll feel that your draft is just a hot mess with no hope, and when that happens, you can turn to your list of positives to remind yourself that it’s worth it to keep going!
Once you’ve compiled your list of things to fix, add, delete, or change, it’s time to make a plan for exactly HOW you’re going to tackle these revisions.
By what date would you like to be finished with your next draft? Put that date on your calendar. How many hours per day or days per week will you write? Schedule that time on your calendar, too. Where will you write so that you won’t be interrupted? Do you need to enlist an accountability partner? What will you do if your initial plan fails? Do you have a backup plan?
As I mentioned in step 3, start with those big-picture revisions first—those six key questions. Try not to get lost in the weeds of your story until you have those six big-picture elements figured out first. This will help you make the most of your revision time and keep you focused on what really matters for your second draft.
Once you’ve gone through a round or two of revisions—and you’re confident that your manuscript is the best it can be without external input—it’s time to work with some beta readers or a developmental editor.
If you choose to work with beta readers, you’ll want to ask things like:
Then, evaluate your beta reader’s feedback with an open mind and weigh it carefully. If more than one person says the same thing, it’s worth deeper consideration—even if you initially disagree. The purpose of this round of feedback is to ferret out holes in your draft that only someone with an outsider’s opinion will be able to see. If you go into it with an open mind, you’ll likely be pleasantly surprised by the feedback.
Something I get asked a lot is—when should I work with a book coach or a developmental editor? How do I know if my story is even ready for a professional editor or if I should spend more time revising it on my own?
Well, first of all, it depends where you’re at in the process and what you need help with.
If you’d like someone to help you develop your rough ideas or help you strategically write your book from start to finish, consider working with a Book Coach.
A book coach can help you work through the five steps above and provide you with a method for building a strong foundation for your story. They’ll also give you support and feedback on your story as you write it. Not only will that help you finish your draft more quickly, but it will save you from potential frustration, and help you become a better writer, too.
If you’ve already self-edited your manuscript to the point of a pretty good second or third draft, it may be time to get a manuscript analysis from a Developmental Editor.
A developmental editor will review your draft and write up a summary of its strengths and weaknesses. Not only that, but they will analyze those six elements mentioned in step 2, and provide their suggested next steps for making your story even better.
If you’re not sure what kind of help you need, most book coaches or editors are willing to jump on a quick call to discuss what you’re working on, what your goals are, and how they can help. (If you’d like to work with me on your story, you can book a call with me here.)
If you decide that you’re not ready to work with a professional editor or book coach, don’t sweat it. Revisit the idea in three to six months and see how you feel about getting help then. Investing in an expert’s advice can be scary, but it’s also what can make the difference between an adequate story and one that truly works.
Revising a messy first draft takes time, commitment, and hard work -- for sure. If it was easy, you probably wouldn’t be reading this post. But if you break down the process into the five steps I mentioned above, you’ll find it’s much easier to take your messy-NaNo-draft and turn it into something solid that you can feel proud of.
👉 Let’s discuss in the comments: How did NaNoWriMo go for you this year? What’s your process like for revising your NaNoWriMo draft?
If you liked the tips in this article, you can get plenty more of them by signing up for my mailing list. Once you sign up, you'll get a new writing or editing tip delivered straight to your inbox each week. You'll also be the first to know about new blog posts, courses, free resources, and more. Unsubscribe at any time!
Enter your name and email address below to sign up! I hate spam and promise to keep your information safe. If you don't like the content headed your way, you can unsubscribe any time!