It’s the end of November, with only one more day left in NaNoWriMo! If you’ve finished your 50,000-word novel (or definitely will tomorrow), congratulations! There’s no better feeling than accomplishing such a huge goal!

As the month winds down, you’re probably wondering what comes next. What do you do after winning NaNoWriMo? There’s still a ways to go to get your book out there, so to help you find your footing, I’ll break it down into five simple steps. For your reference, here’s a brief post-NaNoWriMo guide to help you get from messy manuscript to published novel! Good luck!

Step 1: Celebrate!

Hey, you just wrote 50,000+ words in a month! That’s nothing to sneeze at! Your novel’s journey is far from over, of course, but you don’t need to worry about publishing or marketing just yet. For now, take a bow and congratulate yourself on achieving something incredible! Go you!

Step 2: Take a break from your manuscript

After 30 days of writing nonstop, you’re probably sick of looking at your manuscript. The good news is that you don’t have to for a while! The writing part is done; now’s the time to let the first draft sit and breathe.

How long exactly varies from writer to writer. Two weeks to a month should be enough, but feel free to take a little more time if you need it (so long as you remember to come back to it). Go back to writing your other stories or just relax with your family over the holiday season. When the time is right to return to your manuscript, you’ll know it.

Step 3: Edit with care

November was the time to rush through your first draft just to get it done. Next comes the editing, which shouldn’t be nearly as rushed.

Once you’ve let your manuscript sit for a while, take it back up for a few thorough rounds of revisions. You don’t have to do it at sloth speed, of course, but don’t feel like you have to pants it like you did in the first round. Polish your work as much as you can until there’s nothing left you can do, then prepare to send it to a professional editor (overlapping with Step 5). Repeat this step every time you get it back until your novel is ready for publication!

Important: Do not skip this step! However proud of it you may (and should) be, your manuscript is not ready to be self-published or submitted to a publisher at the end of November! You must edit it yourself and send it to an editor at least once before declaring your novel complete!

Step 4: Regain your confidence and keep going

The editing phase is the part where many aspiring novelists lose a large chunk of their self-confidence. Whereas writing encourages you to keep moving forward without looking back, editing forces you to confront all the mistakes you made in the first draft. Prepare yourself; it can be a real slap in the face!

Trying to sort out everything from your plot holes and inconsistencies to your run-on sentences and misplaced commas can take a huge toll on your morale, which is why it’s important to step back and take a deep breath. Remember why you wrote this story in the first place. Know that the fear and self-doubt you feel is normal, but you can conquer it. You’ve already come this far, so buckle down and keep going until your final draft is done!

Step 5: Prepare your novel for publication!

Ok, this part actually constitutes a series of steps, but I’ll simplify it here so as not to overwhelm you. Once you’ve done as much as you can yourself, it’s time to reach out to others for help. It may sound scary, especially if you’re an introvert, but there’s no way around it. You can’t make it to the finish line alone!

Get feedback on your early drafts from beta readers: family, friends, and/or online critique groups. Hire an editor to help you polish your manuscript to a readable form (again, this part overlaps with Step 3). Reach out to book agents and publishers (if you’re going the traditional route), or find book formatters, cover designers, and book marketing outlets (if you’re self-publishing).

I know it all seems overwhelming right now, but you can do this! The key is to take it one step at a time. Keep working toward your dream and you’ll be a published author before you know it!

Did you win this year’s NaNoWriMo? Still working on your first draft, or are you ready to start preparing your novel for publication?

Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

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