So You Finished Your Rough Draft, Now What?

Nano is over and with that, the urgency for many writers seems to dissipate once they hit December. For me? The first week of December is often time to catch up on all the chores I let slide while trying to get my words in.

This year, I’m also adjusting to a new sleep schedule for the new job I started the last week of November. And prepping my home for the holidays my family celebrates…

But what about my writing? What about yours?

The Next Steps

Well, the next step depends on you. What do you want to do next? There are two main options and either could be right for you.

First – Take time off

In years past, I’ve taken December off and started again, to finish my work-in-progress (WIP), in January. For many of us, with family obligations or kids having breaks, December is a hard time to create new habits and is rough on the old ones. Be kind to yourself an give yourself permission to take the month off. Or to only work on your writing when you have free time, rather than scheduling everything else around your writing.

Maybe you just need an afternoon. Maybe you only write during NaNoWriMo. Most of us fit somewhere in between.

Second – Decide what your next project should be

NaNoWriMo has a traditional goal – write 50,000 words in 30 days. Not everyone follows those goals, but they’re there if you want to.

But November is over. That means it’s time for you to decide what you should work on next.

Finish your novel

So, if you were writing a rough draft in November, whether you won or not, it’s likely that you still have a ways to go to finish your novel!

Some of you wrote 100,000 words or 500,000 words, some of you barely squeaked out those 50,000 words, and some of you… well, you made some progress. You put words together on paper and you’ve got more than you started November with. Be proud of yourself.

But. Modern novels, at least YA and Adult novels are longer than 50,000 words. usually, they START at 65,000 words, and more fantasy things with a lot of world building can be as long as 120,000 words.

There’s a good chance your story isn’t done yet. In which case, your next project might be finishing your NaNoWriMo project!

Edit your novel

Perhaps you’re like me, this year. For the first time ever, I managed to FINISH my rough draft during NaNo. (With 50,612 words, but still.)

Maybe you’ve decided that you’ve written a novella and you’re okay with that.

Either way, it probably shouldn’t see the light of day, or even the eyes of a supportive alpha (pre-beta-reader) before you’ve done a read through and edit.

While gunning for word count and trying to skip editing, writers often end up with confusing word choices, sentences that are out of place, and plot holes you could drive a tank through.

If nothing else, do a line edit to make sure your story is readable. If possible, do a light revision, checking the pacing, verifying that the story order makes sense, and minimizing plot holes.

Start something new

Maybe you’re sick and tired of that novel from November.

The deadlines and panic, (or simply the concept itself), sucked the enthusiasm and joy from the story for you, leaving a lifeless husk of a story on your hard drive.

Maybe you pushed the Nano inhibition limits and are left with something you never want to see again.

Maybe you didn’t even do NaNoWriMo.

Maybe you just need a break.

In any case? Were there any other story ideas that started flirting with you? Trying to distract you from your NaNo project? And ideas that have been rolling around in the back of your head for days, or weeks, or years?

Go ahead and give it life!

Finish something old

Did you abandon or neglect an older project in favor of the new and shiny project for NaNoWriMo? Or choose to take a break for NaNo so you could come back to it fresh?

Maybe NaNo had nothing to do with it, but you still have that old story, sitting in a drawer somewhere.

Now could be the time to pull it out, reread it to see where it’s at and decide. Is it worth saving? What does it need? Massive revisions? Line edits? The ending written? A new first chapter and a coat of fresh paint?

Third – Set Achievable Goals (either now, or after a break)

So, now you’ve decided what you’re working on next. How do you find that momentum you had during NaNoWriMo? You set yourself some achievable goals.

For finishing your novel or starting something new

Word count goals, as you may have discovered, are helpful.

Outside of NaNoWriMo, I’ve usually set a smaller goal than 50,000 words. Obviously, your goal should be based on your life, your writing speed, and your availability.

  • I’ve aimed for 10,000 words before and found that actually a bit short–as soon as I started getting into the writing flow, my words for the week would be done.
  • 20,000/25,000 was a manageable goal with downtime, but steady progress. In which I could take a few days off.

For editing or finishing something old

I spend a lot more time editing than writing. But editing per word is hard to track, you’re adding and deleting… so what sort of measurement can you do? Editing pages!

Even if you delete some, or add some. You can still see how far through the original draft you’ve come.

  • I’ve aimed for editing 10 pages per editing session.
    • Some evenings I’ve managed 3 editing sessions before bed.
    • There have been times I’ve managed 1 editing session in a week.
  • Don’t forget to take the time to plot.
    • Go through your novel, summarize each chapter, and look at the big picture.
    • How is the pacing?
    • Are there plot holes?
  • Feel free to take time off from story editing and just do search-replace style editing.
    • Look for crutch words(very/just) or passive voice (am/is /was/were /be/being /been) and see if you can replace with stronger verbs.
      • Note: I usually try to halve my count for every overused word, so I keep track. I like metrics, I may have mentioned before.

What Is Morgan Up To?

Now, shortly before NaNoWriMo, I got the most treasured type of rejection letters on my novel, “Flesh and Ink”. The one with feedback. That I had a good idea how to implement!

So, my plan for this month is to write a new first chapter and update the old first chapter to work with it. Beginnings are hard. Pacing is tricky, and since my story is fantasy, it’s hard to set the scene, describe the stakes and consequences, and introduce you to the characters and world without feeling like I’m cramming everything in, and sprinkling info-dumps on top…


Wish me luck! And best of luck with your next project.

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