Last Thursday, I “finished” my November book and in the process won National Novel Writing Month 2015.

Those air quotes are included above because I acknowledge that my book is far from truly finished. For instance, I still need to:

  • Fix typos and brainos throughout the manuscript.
  • Double and triple check a few facts.
  • Say goodbye to TK.
  • Patch up any story holes I find.
  • Get someone to line edit the polished rough draft.
  • Run it by a beta reader or two.
  • Get my cover art in order.
  • Publish.

So, yeah, there is still plenty to do before I can call this one “done,” but it is done in the sense that it’s a complete story and gives me the clay I need to build my literary sculpture. It’s also done in the NaNoWriMo sense, because it’s over 50,000 words and, again, its plot is complete.

If you happen to be reading this before the end of November, then there is a good chance that you’re not quite “done” with your own NaNoWriMo novel, and that’s just fine because, after all, this is National Novel Writing Month. I just happened to knock mine out in a shade under 20 days because I knew the end of November would be really busy, and because I’m slightly obsessive (though not very compulsive).

Regardless of when you read this or when you finish your novel, you’ll be faced with the same question that I’ve been mulling over for the last week: what now?

When I finished roughing my book, I was on a roll and was really ready to keep writing, but I was also wiped out. There were days toward the end where I cranked out 3000-6000 words, and that can be mind-numbing.

My second thought was that I should just dig in and start editing, despite the general consensus that that’s a bad idea. “Let it sit in a drawer for a month” is what you often hear from more experienced authors, but I wanted to start cleaning up right away.

Luckily, life gave me an excuse to step away from the keyboard for a bit, and I enjoyed four straight nights of the local high school’s performance of Grease. It gave me chills, I tell you, and it left me mooning for more.

Between dinner out, the shows themselves, and trying to fit in my normal daily chores, most of each night was shot. During the week, there was the pesky issue of going to work, and then, on Saturday, The First Official Snow of 2015 slammed central Indiana at the same time I was trying my (unsteady and untrained) hand at car repair. Another day more or less off the table.

Sunday was a day of recovery, but by late afternoon the creative juices were beginning to pool around the base of my brain again, threatening to leak out of my ears and onto the carpet.

I held them at bay as long as I could, but to preserve the sanctity of our floor and the peace of our home, I succumbed to the keyboard Siren around 5:30.

By 6:30, I was putting the finishing touches on my latest short story, a Thanksgiving western (!) that came from who knows where.

But I was back, and I still am.

The point of all this was not to chronicle my super exciting week but to share the lesson of lessening. As authors, we HAVE to write, and we need to write a lot if we’re going to get better.

We also need to rest, though, and my time “away” reminded me of that and also that I’ll be itching to write again soon enough, when it’s time. For me, it was time on Sunday evening.

So now what will I really do next? The current plan is to map out my next book between now and December, and then to start cracking on that while I’m cleaning up the first one.

I also love to write short stories, so I might try and reserve an hour or two per week for that endeavor. For me, short stories serve several purposes:

  • They give me a quick-hit win, because I can finish an entire story in just a few hours (or less).
  • They keep me interested and thinking because my next plotline is only a few hundred words away.
  • They often stir ideas for longer works, and I may explore turning a few of my earlier short stories into novels or serials in the future.
  • They provide original fodder for our family Story Night, a great way to pull the troops together before another long week at school or work.

Is this road map right for everyone? Of course not, but it’s an example of what has worked for me in the short term and what I think will work for me going forward.

As one eye said to the other just before their owner woke up, we shall see.

Happy NaNoWriMoing, and Happy Thanksgiving!

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