So you’ve completed the first draft of your manuscript, through #NaNoWriMo or otherwise—congratulations! That in itself is a huge accomplishment. Now it’s time to set the thing aside for a few weeks at minimum. Before you start revising, you need to step back so you can return to the work with fresh eyes.
But you may be asking yourself: what do I do in the meantime? Here are seven suggestions:
1. Work on another project.
I’m sure you have a list (or a notebook full of lists) of potential projects. Maybe you’ve even jotted down some notes or a partial outline for one or two. Perhaps you have a complete manuscript that’s been sitting in the drawer while you’ve been working on the new one! You’re a writer, so keep writing. Turn your attention to the next project—as you’ve seen recently from the Twitter hashtag #authorstats, it often takes several manuscripts before your publication dream comes true.
2. Write something completely different.
There’s something to be said for building a brand as an author by writing books in the same genre that have a similar sort of feel to them. Readers know what to expect from a John Green novel or a Nicholas Sparks novel. But that can sometimes lead to creative burnout.
When you’re waiting to revise, give yourself permission to write something completely different if you want. If you’re a romance writer, take a stab at a sci fi short story. Maybe try your hand at flash fiction. You’ll only strengthen your creative muscles by working them in a new way.
3. Observe the world around you.
When you’re a writer, everything is material. Take the downtime to intentionally gather some more. Grab a composition notebook, and play Harriet the Spy for a month. When you’re drafting, it’s easy to get stuck in your head, constantly thinking about a plot point or phrasing. Turn your attention outwards for new inspiration.
4. Get out of your comfort zone, and LIVE.
Or you can go a step further—don’t just observe the world; participate! You may need to catch up on basic life tasks that you neglected while you were finishing that draft. But I encourage you to also try doing something new, whether for you that means skydiving, a crazy hair color, or just trying a different coffee shop across town. Switching up your routine can give you a fresh perspective.
Some writers read in their genre while they’re drafting; some have to avoid it completely. Whatever the case is for you, I’m sure you have a neglected TBR pile languishing in the corner. Reading makes you a better writer, so dive in and catch up on the books you may have missed while you were working on your own.
6. Relax. You’ve earned it.
It’s okay to take a break. (Eliza Schuyler agrees.) It’s important to have goals, but you don’t have to strive towards them constantly. Like I said at the top of this post, completing a draft of a novel is a tremendous accomplishment. Sleep in, watch trashy TV, and abandon your to-do list for a few days.
7. Celebrate your achievement.
Publishing is a long, slow process, so don’t delay your celebration until your book launch party. You should be proud at every milestone, and finishing a draft definitely counts. Treat yourself to a massage or a fancy bath; take the time to cook your favorite food—do whatever is festive to you; we all have our own rituals. Spend a moment acknowledging the work you put in to reach this goal.