Life after NaNoWriMo – Finish The First Draft


This is the final part of our special NaNoWriMo blog series. National Novel Writing Month takes place every November and, if you missed it, you can find more information in the first part of the series or take a look at previous posts, ‘Getting Unstuck’‘Give It Legs’ or ‘Getting Over The Finish Line’. Today we’re looking at life after NaNoWrimo, how you can finish your first draft and make the most of your NaNo momentum.

Take a breath, slow down . . . but DON’T STOP

As I write this post, we are in the final few days of NaNoWriMo and you will have a pretty good idea of what your final word count is likely to be. Did you make the 50k? Were you a little short? Perhaps you smashed it and have already sailed by your original target. Whether you made it or not, take a moment to celebrate your achievements and recognise that even if you don’t quite ‘win’ NaNo, you can still use it as a foundation for success. Too many writers – especially new writers – lose stamina and enthusiasm post NaNoWriMo. NaNo is a sprint, but if you’re serious about wanting to actually complete a novel, you’ll need to prepare for a Marathon.

Use the power of ‘The Habit’

If you truly entered into the spirit of National Novel Writing Month, it’s likely you had to develop a regular habit – to write every day. Whilst you don’t need to commit to writing quite so much everyday – 1667 words to hit 50k in a month – you can and should try to maintain the daily writing habit. Especially whilst you’re in that white-hot first draft phase. Your story will be fresh and exciting and that enthusiasm will see you through to the end of your first draft.


Okay, I freely admit I mentioned this in my previous post but it needs repeating. If the tempatation to look back over your work was there during NaNo, it’s even stronger once December rolls around. Why not? You’ve completed the competition, survived the month and you’ve got this amazing story that didn’t even exist before November 1st – right? WRONG! You will either start to read it, get distracted and stop writing . . . OR you’ll read it, hate it and stop writing . . . OR you’ll dive into editing it and, yes, STOP WRITING. You see where I’m going with this? You must keep going until you’ve typed THE END. And that can only come when you complete your first draft.

Embrace the journey . . .

Unless you you are one of the lucky souls who outlines in detail – and manages to stick to your plan – you will undoubtedly stray off the beaten path during your first draft. It’s fine. Don’t panic. You will almost certainly write yourself into a corner or over-complicate the story. Fear not. I say this as someone who had to trash more than 30,000 of my current WIP, including a storyline that saw a main character die. Only for me to have to bring that character back to life and rewrite a huge chunk of the plot. But, the point is, you must keep going and not lose your faith in the process. Remember: You can fix everything in the edit.

Impatience is a virtue

Yes, when it comes to writing the first draft, I think it pays to be impatient. That desperation you have to get to the end? It’s good. Hold on to it for dear life and let it propel you towards that special place I like to call ‘THE END’. If you get there, you’ve succeeded where many others have failed and have already massively improved your chances of one day holding a finished novel in your hands.

As we complete this year’s NaNo and this blog series, try to think of it as the beginning of the next stage in your writing journey. There will be more regular Joined-Up content to help you on that journey, so let me know what you’d like to read and hear on the podcast. Comment below, tweet me @JUPodcast and don’t forget to follow the blog by email, to become part of The Joined Up Community and get loads more free content.



About Wayne

Editor and Soundman for MGL Media (@mglmedia) and currently completing debut novel 'Safe Hands'. Love Writing and hosting The Joined Up Writing Podcast. Follow @MrKelly2u or @jupodcast on Twitter and say hello.
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