Posted by on Dec 8, 2011 in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), On Writing: Craft and Commiseration | 0 comments

You’ve just finished a novel. Maybe you wrote it as part of November’s National Novel Writing Month. Either way, you’ve got this first draft happily sitting there and you’re wondering… what happens next?

Before you do anything else…

Let it sit.

No matter what your future plans for your novel, your first step should always be to let it sit for at least a month. You just spend a ton of time throwing words down and you’re too close to both the story and the draft to be able to effectively do anything with it. I highly recommend starting something else during this time be it another novel, a short story or a completely different artistic project such as a painting.

This time away from your novel will give you two big things.

  • The first is enough distance from what you wrote to be able to look at it objectively. Being able to look at your writing without too much emotional attachment is what will enable you to effectively edit and revise your story. Words you don’t remember writing are much easier to cut or change then words that still feel like your babies.
  • The second thing you’ll gain is the chance to let your subconscious work on your story in the background. While you were writing your book, you were actively shaping your characters and story. You were so focused on each tree that you couldn’t see the whole forest (to use a cliche). Now you’re going to let your subconscious play with those elements while you purposely don’t work on your story. Sometimes this time away from your novel can be exactly what you need to figure out how to best tell your story and, when you finally do go back to it, you’ll discover that you’ve already worked out some of the biggest issues.
The only tricky part about this step is knowing when you’ve spent enough time away. Give yourself a deadline for when you have to start editing your novel again otherwise you’ll find yourself letting far too much time slip away before you get on to the next step… editing.

Photo by CJS*64 “Man with a camera”