You did it! Against all the odds you have overcome. You put aside the distractions, the everyday minor disasters, and all the constant demands on your time and attention for a whole month while you created your 50,000 word plus masterpiece. You set boundaries for friends and family so that you would have the time to write. You exercised self-discipline, banning the internet with all its distractions until you had your daily word count. You wrote the novel you have always intended to. Now, all you have to do, is edit and polish it.
DO NOT DO IT! Do not even open that file or notebook again before 2017. Don't even think about it. You need the time and distance to be able to look at it with the detachment of an editor.
Right now it's your baby. Those characters are your darlings and you are way too proud of them to even think of cutting or changing one word of their amazing dialog. You are the parent looking for the first time at this tiny pink being that you have created and the only word echoing around in your brain is perfection. You have to now let it age like a fine wine so that when you do come back to it you can see the little dirty diapers, the peanut butter smears on the couch and the crayon markings on the walls. Leave it alone.
Here's what you should be doing now. You should be recharging your batteries. Get up from your desk, your laptop or where ever you have spent every free moment for the last month and walk around. Reintroduce yourself to the family you've been neglecting. Call an old friend and go out to lunch. Go on a date with your significant other. Take a walk outdoors. In the long run, all of these things will put you in a better frame of mind for the task ahead.
Should you stop writing? Hell, no. You've developed some great habits over the last month. You've trained yourself to block out some time every day to get that word count down. You've taught yourself that, when you sit down to your keyboard, you will produce something. Don't give that up. You've worked too hard and sacrificed too much to learn these habits, but, and there's always a but. You need the rest as much as your work does.
So take smaller bites for a while. You don't have to maintain a two thousand word per day pace. Drop down to one thousand or even five hundred. Write some short stories or essays. Change the tone of your work. If your novel was dark and brooding, write something lighthearted even comedic. Now is a good time to stretch those cramped writing muscles. Try something new.
This is also a time for marketing. If you don't have a website or author page, start one. You're going to need it to promote your book. Hopefully you have some short stories or essays lying around. This is a great time to dust them off and put a polish on them. See if you can find them a home. Search the markets and ship those babies off. Let's be honest about this. A lot of writers are afraid of submitting their work. Get over it. I have a stack of rejection slips and letters an inch thick, and that's just from this year alone. Surprise. Not one of them drew blood or left a bruise. They're just part of the life we've chosen. Everyone gets them. You will too. So what. Take them in stride, rant for a day if you need to, sulk a little if you like, then polish that baby one more time and send it back out. Remember, if you can't take the rejection of a little short story or article, how in the hell are you ever going to find an agent or publisher for that masterpiece you just finished writing. Put on your big boy or big girl pants and just do it.
You have a major accomplishment under your belt. You've written a novel. Enjoy that. When you come back to it next year, you will look at it with totally new eyes. You'll find yourself thinking, “Why was I so proud of this character? He/she doesn't really add much to my story. Kill them. You may even enjoy it. You'll look at that masterpiece of dialog and say, “Do people really talk that way?” Fix it.
This new perspective will only make your baby better. Get out your red pen and go to work. If you want more information on exactly how to go about tackling your masterpiece when you come back, I have some great advice from my friend, author and professional editor, Victoria Griffin.
Above all, keep writing. You got this.