Ok, it’s been a hot second since the last day of November when you finished that month-long sprint to the finish for NaNo. You put it aside to let it marinate and truthfully, just to get away from the words and the story for a bit after focusing on it so intently for all of November. But now, no more excuses left – the holidays are done, the new year is here, it’s the dead of winter (at least it is if you’re freezing up here in the northern hemisphere), and it’s time to open up that file and see what you’ve got.
Take a deep breath – here we go.
So, is it as good as you thought? As bad? No matter what shape your story is in, let’s find something positive in it. Here are some take-aways that you can use to help you figure out how to revise your NaNo manuscript:
Whether the manuscript is in a good place or an unsalvageable one, let’s focus first on your accomplishment: you wrote a whole story in a single month! That’s pretty badass, right? Now you know you can and you don’t have to wait till next November to do it again. This is not to say that you should write a whole book in a month again. Maybe it’s a system that works great for you, but for many people, it’s too much stress and not enough time to fully flesh out everything that they want to. But if you wrote 50K in a month, you know you can write 10K in a month, 20K in a month, 30K – because you’ve already done it before. That is an excellent skill to have, especially on those days when you hit a wall and you feel like you can’t churn out any words at all. You know you can push past it eventually and keep going.
If the manuscript isn’t something you want to pursue – it’s just not what you intended or it would be more productive to start again from scratch – then that’s totally okay. File away the good bits, those paragraphs that make you say “damn, I wrote that? that’s gooood,” to save them for any future work (or just for those days when you need confirmation that yes, you can write), and keep reading to figure out how you can improve for the next story or the next NaNo.
Improve your self-editing/analysis
Take a good hard look at your manuscript and start analyzing. Are the characters fully realized? Do their actions make sense in the context of the plot? Does the theme follow throughout the story? Are there any gaping plot holes you could drive a truck through? Look for consistency and clarity, and figure out why they’ve fallen away when they go missing. What bits are you really proud of, and what parts will need work? Use Track Changes and comments to note where improvement is necessary.
Also consider why you made the choices that you did when you were writing, no matter if they turned out well or not. For example, did you feel pressed for time, and did that pressure help or hinder you? If it helped, is this something you should you incorporate them into your writing process or be more cognizant of it creeping in when it’s not helpful? Another example: is that first person narration working or would it be better to experiment with third person instead? This is a great opportunity to think not only about how your story hangs together, but how you write and what speeds or impedes your writing.
Planning for the future
NaNo really rewards careful planning (even if all that planning went to hell by Day 8 because life happened), so continuing to analyze your writing practice, how can you build on your preparations from this year’s NaNo to have an even more successful month next November or to simply improve your process for the next story? Perhaps you need a much more thorough outline or detailed character sketches – or perhaps your extensive outline felt too cumbersome and restrictive when you actually went to write. Figure out what works best for you and incorporate it next time, and eliminate what didn’t work for you this time.
Planning is also important if you’re revising this year’s manuscript. That full, busy month of December tends to create a lot of distance between NaNo and now, and it’s hard to get that full-speed-ahead momentum back, especially after going through and editing. So make a plan to revise and stick to it!
NaNo is such a great exercise for writers to show themselves what they can do and how to push their talent further, but it also provides the opportunity to reflect on how and why they write and what they can do to help themselves grow and evolve as writers.