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What to do after NaNoWriMo - 10 steps moving forward

BY Hannah Lee Kidder | Oct 28, 2022 | Fiction, Production, Publishing

You did it. You won NaNoWriMo and wrote 50,000 words. First of all: congratulations! Winning NaNoWriMo is a huge accomplishment!

So what now?

Here are some steps to consider after NaNoWriMo.

1. Congratulate yourself!

Take a minute to breathe in and absorb. You wrote 50,000+ words in a single month. That’s bonkers! What an accomplishment! Consider treating yourself to something nice, or throw a little party for you and your writer friends.

2. Take advantage of those discounts

If you aren’t aware, NaNoWriMo is funded by corporate sponsors, and those sponsors have gifts for you!

If you missed out on utilizing these perks during the event, no worries! Here are some wonderful offers still valid after November:

  • NovelPad is a novel drafting software designed for the way writers write. NaNoWriMo winners are invited to try the distraction-free drafting, intuitive goal-setting, and streamlined organizational features with a 40% discount. Other participants can access a 20% discount.
  • ProWritingAid (40-50% off) will help you turn your rough first draft into a polished manuscript. (Pro tip: a NovelPad subscription will also give you access to ProWritingAid)
  • WorldAnvil offers a range of tools for writers to organize their series bible, write and publish their novels, and build an author platform. Get your 40% discount through the link below.
  • Campfire has all the tools you need to organize your story’s worldbuilding—they also have a 20-30% discount for NaNoWriMo participants and winners.
  • Freewrite is a drafting device designed to eliminate distractions. Test out your writing flow with 12% off for all NaNo participants.
  • Dabble helps users organize their books and access notes across devices. Grab their 20% discount before it expires in December!
  • Storyist is offering 25% off of their word processor that helps writers track their plots and characters.
  • IngramSpark is one of the semi-necessary evils that all self-published writers flinch at the name of. But they’re letting NaNoWriMo participants upload a book for free until March 2023. Decide for yourself if this is a perk or a threat.
  • Plottr is offering 15-30% off for their world-class visual outlining software.
  • Scrivener has a 20% and 50% discount for NaNo participants and winners, respectively, to use their full range of writing and editing features.

Which one will you try? All of them? Grab your discount codes before they expire!

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3. Check in with your friends and co-writers

How did your writer friends do? Do they need support and/or congratulations?

Get caught up with everyone after the dust settles to check in and reinforce any new acquaintanceships you formed through the event. NaNoWriMo is a powerful networking opportunity, but only if you follow up!

4. Finish your novel

Even if you won NaNoWriMo, there’s a chance you didn’t finish your book. Most novels are over 50,000 words, so wrap up the story if you haven’t!

This means giving the same thought you did at the beginning of November as to when, where, and how you’ll get your writing sessions in. Where do you have time in your regular, non-NaNo schedule?

You’ll want to keep your momentum, but it’s totally reasonable for your schedule and goals to be more relaxed than they were during November. Aim for realistic, achievable goals after NaNoWriMo. Set a timeline with milestone goals and track accordingly.

You might use a tool like NovelPad’s goal-setting page to track your work.

5. Let it rest

Getting space from your first draft is imperative to a successful second draft. Set your project aside for two or three weeks so you can come back to it with fresh eyes.

After some time away, read through the entire book. You might find it helpful to take notes for edits as you go, including words and phrases you notice might be overused. These notes will be important for creating a revision plan.

What isn’t working? Did you find plot holes? Which characters need a stronger arc?

Don’t let a long edit list intimidate you! Finding errors early in the process is much easier than missing them until later.

6. Self-edit

It’s time to clean up that manuscript! When we’re in the weeds of NaNo, the push is just for word count. Quantity over quality. Write first, edit later. Well friends, we’ve arrived at “later.”

The first step is self-editing. Taking the time here can save you a lot of time and money when it comes to the professional edit, so don’t skip it!

Here are some things to look at during your self-edit.

Macro edits

The major things to cover in your macro editing phase are big picture elements: plot, characters, themes, and setting.

Plot

During NaNoWriMo, we’re aiming for word count! That means we might be a little loose with (or completely improvise) the plot of our books. Now is the time to tighten up those plot holes.

Examine each plot point—are they logical? Is each connected by cause and effect? Do they work well together?

If you’re not sure if you should cut a scene, ask yourself if the scene either:

  • Ups the stakes
  • Lets the characters reflect/emotionally react on the action of the previous scene(s)

Most, if not all, of your scenes should accomplish one of those two things.

Characters

We want consistent characters who develop, but also change—that means the characters should progress, but it should happen in a way that makes logical sense with that particular character. The reader should be able to understand the progression of the character arcs.

Another thing to look for when editing characters is their voice. Does each character have a voice distinct from the others? Does the character’s voice make sense for their background and personality?

Themes

Some writers plan their themes before they write the book, while others let it happen naturally. During the editing process, you should be able to identify and iron out your story’s themes.

Setting

The setting of your novel is an important building block for telling that story, as well as providing a backdrop for your characters to operate within.

Do the plot, characters, and setting work together for your themes? Not only are these story elements imperative on their own, but there should also be a cohesion among them.

Micro edits

After the larger issues are resolved in your manuscript, it’s time to zoom into the details.

Find and replace

With your list of repetitive words and phrases from the initial read-through, run a search of your whole manuscript for those terms to replace them.

Run an editing software

If you have Hemingway Editor or a comparable program, run your manuscript through it! If you don’t have editing software, consider grabbing the ProWritingAid discount above! (Or NovelPad, since ProWritingAid is included in that drafting program.)

After you’ve addressed anything your editing software flagged, do another careful readthrough to consider word usage, verbiage, syntax, and flow. An editing software can’t sharpen your personal author voice—you’ve got to do that yourself!

Reading your manuscript out loud can help you catch inconsistent voice and syntax issues.

7. Professional edit

After the self-edit (and perhaps a round or two of beta readers), it’s time to hire out for a professional edit.

Make sure to thoroughly vet your potential editors by reading reviews and testimonials, reaching out to their previous clients, and/or requesting a sample edit.

If you don’t know where to start on your search, ask any writers you know! If that doesn’t give you any leads, check out our publishing services list.

8. Formatting

Formatting services can often be bundled with cover designs, so don’t be afraid to shop around for the best deals—they’ll often come from the same place.

Formatting is a place you can spare to save some money. While cover design isn’t necessarily intuitive for non-designers who aren’t sufficiently plugged into the industry and current trends, formatting is a much lower stake endeavor for DIY.

How to format a book yourself

There are many options for formatting software—Microsoft Word, Atticus, Vellum, Adobe InDesign, etc. Whichever you choose, there are tons of online tutorials for how to format physical books and ebooks.

When I formatted my own book, I used Nadège Richard’s Skillshare classes to learn how to design the ebook and paperback with Adobe InDesign.

How to hire a formatter

If you’d rather pass the job to a third party, follow the same method as you did finding an editor—testimonials, check out their portfolio, ask past clients about their experience.

9. Cover design

Let’s not kid ourselves—we all judge a book by its cover. Your cover should represent the content of your book while being aesthetically appealing.

If you’re going to invest money anywhere, your cover is a great place to do so. It’s one of your most impactful marketing tools, so make sure you get it done right!

For certain genres, pre-made covers are an affordable, reasonable option. That means your research will mostly be scrolling through libraries of covers a designer has already created—you pay a small fee, and they swap the stand-in name and title for yours!

Genres this works well for are “paperback genres,” like a lot of romance, western, sci-fi, and other books you’d expect to see on the $5 shelf in a bookstore, or available in ebook format only. This is not to disparage those genres! It’s just a different type of industry with different expectations, where quantity and speed of publication are valued higher than quality and uniqueness.

If your book falls into a genre or subgenre that values unique cover designs, you’re probably better off hiring for an original design. Expect to spend at least a few hundred dollars here.

10. Launch!

If you’ve never self-published a book before, don’t panic—it’s easier than you probably think it is.

First, decide which formats you’d like to publish in. As a general rule, writers benefit from having more formats available versus fewer*. Your basic options are ebook, paperback, hardback, and audiobook (in order of difficulty).

Once you’ve decided your desired formats, it’s time to consider publishing options.

*There is a case to be made for limiting the format availability of your books. An example of this is if you’re rapid-publishing essays, short self-help books, erotica or template romance, or any other genre that readers aren’t likely to want a physical copy of. Besides a lack of potential demand for a physical form of these books, it’s important to consider turnaround time and budget for genres that find profitability through quick publish routes.

Publishing platforms

The platform you choose for publishing your book will depend on your goals!

The cheapest (free) option is AmazonKDP. This is probably the best choice for first-time authors, as it’s free and pretty user-friendly. Most writers can figure out KDP by going through the step-by-step guidance on the site.

A more experienced author might use IngramSpark—it’s less intuitive, has worse customer service, and costs money to upload (unless you’ve taken advantage of their free book upload through NaNoWriMo!).

Marketing

Marketing should technically start before your book is published. The pre-order period of a publication is a huge opportunity to build up hype for your book!

Presale giveaways are a great way to get early sales, build excitement, and prove the marketability of your book before it’s even out. One of the best ways to grab those pre-orders is to host presale giveaways.

It’s common for authors to give a freebie to every person who pre-orders (and enters the giveaway), then randomly award bigger prizes to a select few participants.

When I hosted my presale giveaway for Starlight, I offered a PDF of deleted short stories to everyone who entered, then awarded around ten bigger prizes of paperback books, posters, and goodie boxes. Compared to the pre-order period for Little Birds, where I only offered a few big prizes, my presale numbers were significantly larger when every participant received a consolation prize.

ARCs, or Advanced Reader Copies are another powerful marketing tool for authors. This method is when you offer select readers (i.e., reviewers, bloggers, influencers) a free, advanced copy of your book in exchange for an honest review. Having reviews live before the book drops can greatly increase sales.

Marketing imagery is something most people can learn to do themselves with tools like Canva and BookBrush. Try to stack your imagery up ahead of time so you have less to worry about during your launch!

Events

Before your book launch, start scheduling events like speaking gigs, book tours, signings, guest spots on podcasts or YouTube channels, and anywhere else you can get word about your book out.

There is no “right way”

Each author’s journey—from drafting to marketing—is unique to them. You can study other authors’ methods, read the books, and follow the guides, but ultimately, you will build your own strategies and processes that work best for you.

In the beginning, it’s great to emulate successful authors in your genre while you’re figuring it all out. Don’t be afraid to experiment and take a skip off the beaten path!

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Hannah Lee Kidder
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