I’ve taken part in several editions of NaNoWriMo (either the OG event or one of the camps that happen in April or July) over the years and still unfinished projects I started during those events. Even though I won a few of those, I’ve always been a NaNo rebel and maybe only once managed to write 50k words for one project. So what happened to those projects? Will they ever come out of the drawer again? What do you do when NaNo is over?
My old projects
Devil’s Deal is one of the projects I used for NaNo and it’s out, published, taken offline, edited again and again, republished, and now it’s getting a new cover as well. But I still have a few other projects, ones that I haven’t talked about much outside of posts related to NaNo and my project. I’ll be honest, these projects won’t be finished for at least another few years. All of them are passion projects and I’ll treat them as such. Since they’re not really fantasy related, I want to publish them under a pen name which would take up more time and energy than I currently have. Heck, I’ve got problems managing this pen name. I want the Lunis Aquaria world to be my main thing and that’s what I’m going to focus on first. All the other projects will have to wait their turn.
This is a business decision. If you’re not planning your author career yet and writing is your hobby, you can make different decisions. Or maybe you’re also committed to this one series and you’ve been working on one, two, or more books in the series already. Good for you! If you’re more like me and have shiny plot bunnies hopping around and you catch them as you see them, it’s tough to put them aside and not pay attention to them as time goes on. What if they starve? Or the shine goes away?
Don’t worry. Every story has its time and place. You can give the shine back to a story that lost it years ago. Focus on the bunny you’re passionate about right now.
What to do when NaNo is over
Take a break. No matter if you won or not, you need to give yourself a mental break after forcing yourself mentally to make that deadline. It’s stressful, even if your word count goal was lower than 50k. Working towards a deadline takes a toll. Take a break from the writing process (if time allows) and go consume. Binge bad Christmas movies, or that new fantasy series. Go indulge.
When you’re ready, you take out your manuscript again and read it. Don’t grab your red pen yet! Read it as a reader. Do you enjoy it? Would you like to know what happens after you stopped writing? If you still feel that spark inside of you, definitely keep going with the project. Read it again, but as the author. Take notes, what would you change, and how does the story continue? Do you already know the ending? Or how would you fill up the empty spaces in-between the key scenes?
Then slowly work through your notes until you’re done.
January is the start of the ‘What now?’ season. You’ve finished your story, so what’s next? If you’ve finished the first draft, I suggest you start on the second draft. Take time in between as needed, whether that’s three days or three months, whatever works for you. Then it’s time to look for feedback from others. This is a scary step, but the one you learn the most from. You can look for critique partners where you give and take feedback from another author. You can also look for beta readers. Both of these are usually free because you can exchange services. I’d recommend this for anyone looking into traditional publishing and self-publishing.
After you’ve worked through the feedback, it’s time to think about your publishing options. There’s no right or wrong here, only different paths. But you need to figure out what you can expect from walking down each path. Either way, be wary of vanity publishing. Never give money to a publisher. Money flows to the author, not from. If you have any doubts, check Author Beware if they wrote about the publishing house or agent. Always do research before you sign a contract. You can research your publishing options as you wait for feedback to save time.
Then it’s a matter of creating your publishing plan and executing it. And that’s a story for another time. Once you reach this stage, you’ll be weeks, if not months, into the new year. For now, breathe. Take a break. Read a book, one you didn’t write, and just enjoy. Your book will wait for you.