NaNoWriMo: Week Five+

A week-by-week guide through National Novel Writing Month. This essay covers the fifth week of November and beyond.

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Follows: Week Four

It’s December, which means you made it to the end! Jolly good show. All that’s left now is to send off what you’ve written to agents, publishers, or self-publish it…

Don’t do that.

For the love of all things that you hold dear, do not do that. People do, and they shouldn’t. Don’t give it a quick grammar edit and then do that. What you’ve done needs a lot of work, time, energy, and effort to get it to the point of actual completion. What you have in front of you is what’s commonly referred to as a first draft. Treat it as any other first draft.

Firstly, go and have a break. Enjoy your success, as even if you didn’t hit your target you still wrote something and that in itself is no mean feat. If you did manage 50,000 words—or more—then good on you.

Once you’ve had a break, then you need to work out what to do next.

Create Your Plan

You’ve spent a lot of your creative energy and you need to recharge, so have some time off. Then—when you’re ready—open up your NaNoWriMo project again and edit it, then redraft it, and keep repeating this until you’ve got something that you’re happy with.

Execute Your Plan

Stop. Put the writing away for a bit. Go do something that isn’t writing and spend some time away from what you’ve done. I’m talking weeks, if not months. Maybe, in the meantime, write a few short stories, articles, or poems, as palette cleaners. You need some distance before you start editing but you also do need to rest up and get your energy back. Once you feel recharged, go back to it and read it through from start to finish. Print it out and see how it feels. You can make some notes if you wish but don’t go into the editing too much. Is the structure okay? What are the characters like? Do they feel fleshed out and three-dimensional? Are there any plot holes? Is anything left unfinished? List the main problems. Once you’ve done that, you’ve got to fix them. Some people like to do a second draft from scratch rather than make edits to the first draft. This has its merits, but I’m not a fan of doing so personally. Your work will need a lot of edits—much more than you think it will—as most first drafts do. Start working your way through the list, but also keep adding things to it as you go. Really, from this point on, you treat this project as you would any other first draft—go through the cycle of editing until you have a finished product.




That’s the end of NaNoWriMo. How did you do? If you made it to 50,000 words, nicely done. If you didn’t, it doesn’t matter; don’t beat yourself up or feel like a failure. You made progress on whatever it was you were working on. You wrote something—that’s an achievement. Don’t treat it as a failure, as you didn’t fail. You made a start on a project, you set up a writing schedule, you developed your writing discipline. Your writing career will be better off in the long term, even if you didn’t stick to all of your plans and you weren’t as disciplined as you wanted to be. Writing, like NaNoWriMo, is a marathon, not a sprint. Set up the foundation, which is what you’ve been doing by attempting discipline, regular writing, and writing to a deadline, to make future writing easier.

Again, for the love of all things that you hold dear, do not publish your NaNoWriMo project—your first draft. Fix it, make it good, work on it until you can’t bear the thought of working on it anymore, and keep going. That’s the real challenge.

David Chitty was born and raised in Thanet in the 90s. He devotes most of his energies to writing fantasy fiction novels.

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