Back in November, eager writers readied their wits and fingertips to attempt the National Novel Writing Month challenge. The goal was easy on paper, but a bit more difficult in theory: write 50,000 words by the end of the month.

Everyone takes the challenge for a different reason. Maybe you wanted to realize your dream of writing a novel, or maybe you just wanted to have some fun and see what came of your hard work. No matter the reason or how you did during the month, you survived and walked away with some valuable experience. Armed with your freshly drafted word count, you’re ready to take your writing to the next step. But where do you go from there?

keep calm and keep writing

Keep Calm and Keep Writing

Did you “win” by reaching your word count goal? Great! Come up short? Don’t feel bad — a month isn’t much time, after all, and life can get in the way. NaNoWriMo isn’t about winning, it’s about stepping into action and engaging in the creative process. Either way, it’s probably best if you kept writing.

50,000 words is largely considered too short for a pre-edited draft. A solid goal to work toward is 80,000 words, give or take depending on the specific genre. Don’t worry about writing too much; it’s always easier to cut out sections of text than it is to add.

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Time To Edit

With few exceptions, pounding out an average of 1,700 words per day doesn’t leave much room for edits throughout the duration of the challenge. In fact, writing under duress is designed to make you focus wholly on writing and ignore the nagging tendency many writers have to go back and re-tool their work until it’s perfect. The downside is that a large amount of wordage doesn’t necessarily equate to quality work, so even if you manage to accomplish your goal, you still have a lot of work to do to reach a finished, polished product. The hardest part might be over, but editing is no less time-consuming than writing.

After the month-long haul, it’s probably best to detox and take a break from your work before starting the editing process. Clearing your mind makes it easier to read back over your writing with a little more objectivity and a fresh perspective. It’s also important not to rush the editing, which could take several more months of dedicated work.

Decide Your Next Course of Action

Compared to the number of “winners,” few NaNoWriMo novels ever make it to print. Shopping a novel is difficult, especially for a first-timer, but there are a few options writers can take. The traditional method is the most desirable (and also the hardest) and requires finding a literary agent or querying a publisher directly. Following writers and book reviewers in your genre on various social media sites can sometimes provide a lead on special contests or places currently accepting manuscripts. Twitter is a great resource for this, and don’t forget to search relevant hashtags.

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Self-publishing is rising in popularity, though it can be a difficult to see results and authors receive minimal assistance. It’s an easy method of putting your work out there, but self-marketing is no simple task. Before deciding to slap your novel on Amazon, it’s probably a good idea to read up on self-marketing and branding. At minimum, you’ll need several social media accounts dedicated to promoting yourself as an author and preferably a website. The larger your presence, the better.

(P.S. You can buy our self-published book GenTwenty’s Guide to College Success right here.)

Vanity presses, or publishers who will print and market your novels for a fee, are another option; however, a good deal of these are scams and many will retain the rights to your work. They are often not picky on content because they’re getting paid up front and the success of your novel means little at that point. Beware of companies advertising for manuscripts and never sign a contract without fully knowing what it says.

Of course, whether or not you choose to pursue avenues of publishing for your NaNoWriMo piece is totally up to you. Writing is only part of the battle, but the other steps it takes to release a published piece are no less intimidating. Some writers find that their finished piece isn’t on par with their skill, and others just enjoy having creating something special. Tucking it away on your computer or posting it to your blog are viable options. Just have fun and relish the accomplishment!

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