As I write this it’s November 30th, and there are no doubt many people who are furiously typing in a last ditch attempt to hit the 50k word count. Not everyone who signs up for Nanowrimo manages to cross the finish line within the 30 days, while others achieve word counts high enough to make your head spin. But for all participants, the questions the same. What comes after Nanowrimo? Well, in the spirit of those classic ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books, let’s find out.
It’s just gone midnight, and Nanowrimo is officially over. You look down at your desk.
If you failed to hit 50,000 words, go to Paragraph 1.
If you wrote more than 50,000 words, go to Paragraph 2.
Paragraph 1. For those who finish November with less than 50K, it can be easy to feel like the whole thing has been a waste of time. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Every word written in November is worthwhile, a step forward on your journey. Even if it’s just a single word, it’s a start. Where there was nothing, there is now something. So don’t throw that away. Don’t dismiss it as nothing. It’s okay to take a break, brush yourself off. Then go back to it, and write a second word. Then a third. Carry on that way, for as long as it takes, until you’ve got yourself a complete first draft.
Do a little dance and go to Paragraph 2.
Paragraph 2. You made it! People may have thought you were crazy for even trying, but you managed to write 50,000 words. Before you go any further, you really do deserve to give yourself a pat on the back. Put your manuscript to one side for a while; catch up on all the chores you skipped, talk to all the friends and family who’ve wondered where you disappeared to. If you feel particularly industrious, you could even start on a new project. Either way, the important thing is that you give yourself some space, so that when you come back to it, you can look at it objectively.
If you decide to start playing online video games, go to Paragraph 3.
If you decide to go out with a few friends for a few drinks, go to Paragraph 4.
If you decide to watch ‘Guardians of the Galaxy,’ go to Paragraph 5.
Paragraph 3. You finally get your character to level 99. You go to check the time then realise it’s been 46 years, and your manuscript has disintegrated. Your dreams of becoming a novelist disappear before your eyes, shortly before the machines rise and overthrow their human oppressors. Humanity as we know it ends. Game Over. Go back to the beginning and try again.
Paragraph 4. You stumble back to your desk, slightly worse for wear, but ready to objectively look at your manuscript. Your first port of call? The Nanowrimo website. They have an entire section dedicated to what to do with your first draft. To be frank, if you managed to write 50,000 words in a month, they’re going to need a lot of polish. This is the stage I’m at, working out how to take that rough lump of coal and turn it into a diamond. This is something I’m going to have to learn as I revise my completed manuscripts, and when I work it out, I’ll be sure to let you know. In the meantime, you may find the following post by fantasy author Nat Russo on Revising Your First Draft, along with his Revision Checklist (Part One and Part Two) to be helpful. Once you’ve checked out the links, trot on over to Paragraph 6.
Paragraph 5. Wasn’t that awesome? I mean, from the moment that first song kicks in, through to the moment the credits started rolling, the whole thing was great. And the bit with the prosthetic leg? I’m just laughing thinking about it. Anyway, go and grab a couple of drinks and head on over to Paragraph 4.
Paragraph 6. This is the end of the adventure for now. I hope you’ve enjoyed your journey so far, but the rest of it is up to you.
How’s your adventure going? Any tips you’d add for what comes after Nanowrimo? Let us know in the comments below.