What To Do After You Finish a Big Writing Challenge…with a Checklist!

You finished NaNoWriMo! What next? Click through to the blog for a step-by-step plan for success after finishing a writing challenge like Camp NaNoWriMo or NaNoWriMo in November!

Congrats on finishing Camp NaNoWriMo! What an achievement!

The first thing you should really do is get yourself a glass of champagne or your favorite sparkling beverage and celebrate!

And even if you didn’t reach your goal, still break out the champagne and celebrate, because you started something really hard, and that takes enough guts anyways. You’ll finish in the future. I know it. You know it too right?

So at this point, you’re probably wondering “What do I do now?”

Good question.

And boy do I have answers! We’re talking a checklist, strategies, best practices, and a few rituals to really take advantage of this beautiful new project you’ve completed. I know that Camp allows for a variety of goals, whether it’s writing a new novel, editing your WIP, creating a collection of poems or essays, or finding a publisher. We’ll address a few of those in this post.

But firstly, print off this fancy checklist I made for you. It’ll walk you through some steps and options for your bright and shiny project and help you stay on task with the next few months.

I don’t’ have to tell you that the next few months are critical. Don’t do what I did and take a month off from your work only to have that turn into three months, then six, than…oh geez…here I am at eight guys…I’ll be using this checklist right along with you.

Step 1: Celebrate!

Have you had that glass of champagne yet? Get on it and celebrate!


Step 2: Print Out Your Finished Project

Now we can get to real stuff. Champagne glass in hand, print out the complete draft of your novel, your newly edited WIP, or your goal list. Hold it in your hands and take it in. You wrote that. Especially if you’re holding your WIP or your first draft, take a minute to marvel at your own creativity, stubbornness, and perseverance.


Step 3: Flip Through Your Project

Take a minute to do a super quick scan of your project. Don’t sit down and deep read, just lazily and efficiently, read through each page of your WIP, noting anything that comes to mind. You’ll be seeing it with tired eyes, but this first run through is so important. Not only will you see the scope of your work up close, but you’ll see the possibilities of the characters you created, the plot you surmised, and the setting you dreamed up.


Step 4: Write Down Your Immediate Observations

As you flip through your work, write down those observations and possibilities. Don’t take long, but at least get them down on paper, whether that’s on the manuscript itself or in a separate journal. The most important thing is remembering what you’re thinking now, and taking stock of what you want to add, subtract, or what you’re already proud of.


Step 5: Grab Your Notebook and Start Planning

Don’t skip this step! You won’t make any progress towards your dreams if you don’t sit down and make a plan! If you don’t have a journal, start one. It can be a physical journal or on your computer, but I recommend actually handwriting your plan. It makes your plan seem that much more concrete when you’ve written it with your own hands rather than simply typing it.


Step 6: Start With A Deadline

Goal planning works best when you give yourself a deadline and work backward from there. Pick a deadline, whether that’s to have your next draft done, whether that’s when you want responses from beta readers, whether that’s when you want to have connected with an agent. Whatever your goal, give yourself an end date.


Step 7: Work Backward to Create Your Timeline

Underneath your deadline in your journal, write down everything…literally everything…you would need to do to accomplish your goal by your set deadline. So for instance, if you want to revise your book you can schedule yourself a chapter a week, or work through character story lines, one a month. If you’re looking for an agent, write down “find agents to query”, “write query letters”, “submit query letters”, etc. Make these tasks minute and mundane. Even if it seems obvious to you, write it down.


Step 8: List Them In Order

Start with a week from now. What do you want/what can you have done by next week? What about two weeks from today? A month? Six months? Work your way through until you reach your timeline. It’s also best to allow yourself a bit of wiggle room, anywhere from a week to a month, just in case you get distracted or discouraged, or because of that family vacation to Disney World.


Step 9: Do What Can You Do Today

Sift through and find the small steps. The little things that aren’t time sensitive. Things like “create an author email signature” or “create chapter titles” or “brainstorm your favorite scenes you’ve written so far”. Pull these out and do a few today. Cross them off your list. Sip your champagne. See? You’ve already made a little progress.


Step 10: Wait a Week

Take advantage of that built-in wiggle room and take a few days away from your WIP. Speed read through a new book, try a new recipe, get outside for a whole day without worrying about making your Camp quota. Do something, anything, that isn’t working on your WIP or current project. Remind yourself why you write, why you love it, why it fills you up inside.


Step 11: Flip Through Your Project Again

After you’ve taken a week to read, write, and do different things, do the same flip through you did when you finished. Take a quick moment to breeze through each page. Note things you want to change, things you want to add, things you love, things you hate, and things you didn’t notice a week ago.


Step 12: Write Down Your Immediate Observations Again

Again, in your journal, write down your observations. Compare them to your list from last week. Any differences? Anything new? What did you notice both times? What did you catch only once?


Step 13: Write Down Your Top Revisions

Use these two recordings of your flip-throughs to make a list of the top things you want to change. They can be your top five, your top ten, or even all of them. Whichever ones stand out the most to you.


Step 14: Just Start

Take the smallest revisions that are not grammatical (save those for very last) and do two of them, right now. Cross them off your list. Now do two more. Cross them off your list.


Step 15: Smile

You’re on your way to finally finishing your WIP. Enjoy another glass of champagne.



Alexis Truitt

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