All month, I have been trying to decide exactly what to say to you to wrap up the writing adventure we’ve had during NaNoWriMo. But the truth is, I’m speechless. I always am at the end of November when I look back and realize the enormity of the literary ride we’ve just been on. Other NaNoWriMo veterans will tell you that you need to be prepared for anything during the month of November—and they are completely right. World catastrophes happen, children accidentally delete the last 5,000 words of your manuscript, or—as in my case—your computer breaks the week before Thanksgiving and you have to find another way to finish your novel. On November 1, we embarked on a journey together, determined to write 50,000 words in just 30 days. And no matter what happened to us throughout the month, we were determined to finish.
And now, here we are on December 1. Some of us slid through the month like a hot knife in butter, so focused on our novels that we didn’t even realize we’d finished with a week and a half to spare. And then there are others of us who dragged our novels across the finish line at 11:59 p.m. last night, looking beat up, half dead, and very badly needing a shower and solid food. How you got here doesn’t matter. The point is, you did it. I don’t want to know whether you hit your 50,000 word goal or not. That part doesn’t matter anymore. What does matter is whether or not you made progress this month. Are you 10,000 words closer to the end of your story than you were at the beginning of November? How about 3,000 words? Even if you only wrote 500 words in the entire month, you win!
NaNoWriMo isn’t about a required number of words or completing your first draft, although if you manage to hit those goals, then kudos to you. NaNoWriMo is about helping you take another step closer to your dream—you know, that dream you have of one day becoming a published author. It’s not about comparing yourself to your writing buddies to see who did better (although having a healthy competition among friends isn’t a bad thing during November). It’s about you and your book. If you made an effort at any point during November, then you should consider yourself a success as a NaNoWriMoer. I do.
Whether you hit 50,000 words or not, now that it’s December, you might find yourself asking, “So, uh, now what?” Now is when the next level of fun begins. You’ve written a novel. What do you do next? The first thing you need to do is go take a shower. A month’s worth of stink isn’t going to make you any new friends as you rejoin the real world and let your families back into your lives. Then, throw yourself a Thank Goodness It’s Over party. Celebrate your accomplishment! Thirty days of literary abandon is no easy feat, and you deserve a reward for your efforts. Once you’ve taken care of all that, blow your novel a kiss, turn off your computer, and go enjoy yourself for the upcoming holiday season. As hard as it is to imagine after the intimacy you’ve just shared with it, you and your novel really do need a break from each other to gain some new perspective. Give yourself at least two full weeks of separation time where you’re not working on it, thinking about it, or making notes on what you want to change in the future. Oh, and don’t forget to tell your inner editor that she can come back from vacation. She’ll have a nice present waiting for her when you open your novel again.
The next steps on the road to becoming a published author will be exciting, and that’s where the Indie Book Collective and I come in. Now that you’ve written a novel, your goal for 2012 should be to polish that story and get it ready for publication—whether you decide to join the indie author troops or query the help of an agent. But how do you get from here to there? There’s a lot to think about. You’ll need to edit your novel, create your author platform and start branding yourself in your book’s genre, format your manuscript so that it will be ready for eBook publication, and learn how to market your work to your target audience. But don’t worry. Although this sounds like a daunting task, take a look back at the month we’ve just finished and think about what you’ve accomplished. You just wrote an entire book in 30 days! If you can do that, the next part will be a piece of cake.
The Indie Book Collective offers free and low-cost workshops that teach you how to do all of these tasks, from social media and branding yourself to eFormatting and using your Amazon author page to its full advantage. You are not alone in this writerly journey, and the IBC wants to help. And, March is NaNoEdMo—National Novel Editing Month. Won’t you join me in March as we work to sculpt our NaNoWriMo masterpieces into polished prose we can share with the world? I think you should, and I’ll be back in March with some more tips on how to make NaNoEdMo work for you. Let’s make 2012 a year we’ll never forget—the year we get published!
Melissa Dalton is a YA writer who’s been in love with books her whole life. Her middle-grade novel, Merrick Maples and the Legend of the Lost Stone, which she wrote during NaNoWriMo 2010, will be released in June 2012. She is a two-time NaNoWriMo winner, and is currently enjoying her post-NaNoWriMo celebration. Find her on Twitter, on Facebook, or on her blog.