So You've Won NaNoWriMo — What Next?
Header image via Nataliya Vaitkevich
It’s the first days of December and you’re celebrating, because in November you accomplished something truly stupendous — you wrote 50,000 words (or more!!! a hero) of a novel in thirty days.
The first thing I’d say you ought to do after winning NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is take a beat and simply celebrate your accomplishment. It’s possible that while you were in the weeds of drafting in a mad dash, surrounded by the NaNo community and all the other writers doing the same thing, you forgot what a big deal that really is.
Take a beat. Reflect. Writing a novel — much less in one month — is a massive, massive accomplishment. Not everyone does it! So pop some champagne, eat a cake, grill up some vegetables (I don’t know how you celebrate, maybe you don’t drink or eat sweets, and that’s valid, too) and take a moment to appreciate yourself. Pat yourself on the back and bask in the glory of being a big freaking deal.
This piece of advice comes from someone who has completed seven full-length novels and failed to celebrate a single one. So trust me when I say, you deserve to celebrate and you will miss it if you don’t!
I’ve also attempted NaNo more than I’ve won; I’ve tried every single November since 2013 and I’ve even done a few mid-year Camp NaNo extravaganzas, and I haven’t won a regular NaNo since like 2014. So if I sound really agog at your accomplishment, it’s because it’s something I haven’t been able to consistently do lately. I am in awe of you.
There’s one thing I would suggest you don’t do after completing your first NaNo, and it’s a very common piece of advice I’m sure you’ve heard before, but it bears repeating: don’t query your novel in December!
There are many reasons not to immediately query your NaNo novel. On a purely logistical note, and in my anecdotal experience, December is not an ideal time for querying because so many agents are closed for the holidays; it’s far easier to wait until January, once they reopen.
But on another note, if you’ve just finished a draft last month, your novel is not going to be ready. I’m also someone who has in the past queried a novel (or two) before it was ready, and the truth is agents can tell. Maybe the writing quality isn’t up to par, or there are holes in the plot, or it just isn’t as strong as it could have been otherwise. Querying is already so hard, especially in 2022, and it’s incredibly difficult to catch an agent’s attention and capture their heart. Give yourself the best shot possibly by taking some time to revise and fine-tune your novel until it’s in tip-top shape.
And my final piece of advice: take a little break. After your celebration and before you dive into edits, take some time (how much depends on you, but I suggest at least a week) to put the book aside and just…not think about it.
Easier said than done, right? But it’s so necessary. The break is restorative to your brain and heart, and it also allows you to come back to revisions with fresher eyes, which means you’ll catch things you might have missed otherwise.
Y’all. You did it. You won NaNoWriMo. Whether it’s your first or your 15th win, that’s a massive accomplishment. I’m so impressed! Please take some time to celebrate, don’t immediately dive into querying, and give yourself a break. You’re a rockstar.
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