In just 13 more days, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) will come to an end. Can you believe we have already gone through half a month of writing? At this point, you should be halfway done with your novel. If you have written around 25,000 words so far then give yourself a pat on the back because you have done a great job! Even if you did not reach this word count but you still sat down and wrote every day (or more often than before), be sure to congratulate yourself. Now is the time to start thinking of your plans once November ends. What will you do with the 50,000 words you wrote? If you think your work is done, you are far from correct. Here are 5 things you should do at the end of this writing month:
Take a Few Weeks’ Break from Your Novel
It is important to take a break from your novel after NaNoWriMo ends or you’ll be too close to the story and writing to see the flaws. Even the greatest, most successful writers do this. In Stephen King’s book On Writing, King advised all writers to take a break once they are done writing their novel. The longer you wait, the better. However, I think it is perfectly fine to look at your novel after a one month break.
Read Over Your Novel
You cannot start diving into your novel right away, editing the written words and adding plot and destroying characters. You should read your story from beginning to end to remind yourself what went wrong and see where things do not work. You might find that your plot lacks clarity, or that one of your characters seems suspicious for no reason whatsoever. You might even realize that your suspicious character could have a bigger, more devious role to the overall plot. Thus, reading your story is crucial.
Tip: Take notes while reading and highlight important areas.
Revise Your Novel
Now that you know where your story lacks depth, you can go back and revise. Give your characters a strong backstory (what makes them who they are?). Fix the bad grammar, the confusing lines, and the unnatural dialogue. Add a setting if you did not do so during NaNoWriMo. Setting is a great way to center the reader and make him/her feel like they are part of that world. Setting should include the following:
- Time period (present day, 18th century, future, etc.)
- Time of year (is it cold, hot, both?)
- Details of the setting that relate particularly to that time (for instance, if the story takes place in November, you would describe the pumpkins decorating homes)
- Smells that go with this setting (pumpkin spice lattes, cinnamon toast, candy canes)
This is also the perfect time to make sure you have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Think back to middle school and high school when the teacher drilled the story arc to the class. Your novel needs to have a set-up (Act I), an inciting incident or trigger, a rising action, a crisis (Act II), a climax, falling action, and resolution (Act III).
Let A Trusted Friend Read Your Novel
Once you are done with your first revision, give your story to a trusted friend you know can read and critique without bias. You want someone to be able to tell you where things are off and where things are great. A good reader is someone who:
- Likes to read
- Is strong with the English language
- Knows the difference between “they’re,” “there,” and “their”
- Can honestly tell you the weaknesses of your story
- Can encourage you by pointing out your story’s strength
- Does not tell you to quit writing simply because your story is flawed or not perfect for publication
- Does not condemn your writing in its entirety
- Is not afraid to tell you to change major scenes in your story when they do not work
Have your friend take notes for you and highlight important areas.
Revise Again and Again
Once you get feedback from your friend, revise your story based on that feedback. Keep in mind that you do not have to follow every advice your friend gives you. If you see a different path for your story than your friend does, revise based on that path and make sure it is clear and coherent. Your friend will stand by your revision and even respect you for doing what you think is best in the end. However, if multiple readers tell you that something is not working, do not try to convince them that it does. Remember, unlike with your friends, you cannot sit with a publisher and convince them to like your story. So, take some advice to heart and throw other advice out the door if you know it is not for you and your final story.
After revising again and again and again and you feel like you have done the best you could do, send your novel to a publisher. No novel can be completely perfect in the eyes of its writer, but you and you alone know when it is time to stop revising and send your work out into the world.
Good luck with the rest of NaNoWriMo!
If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out the preview of my novel Dance with the Devil right here: