No, I’m not kidding.
Seriously. I’m not kidding. Delete it.
Wait, wait. Nope. Still not kidding.
I write nearly all of my first drafts in 4-6 weeks. Every first draft is NaNo for me. My first drafts are where I work out the plot and the character arcs and who these people are that I’m writing about. They’re 90% shit.
The problem most writers have, if you’re new to writing and you haven’t finished many manuscripts, is that you want to hold onto those hard-won words with every fiber of your being. You sweated for those words. You bled for them. You hid in the bathroom from your spouse or kids or needy dog to write those words. They’re yours and you don’t want to cut a single one of them.
Which is your problem. Those words are probably 90% shit. But rather than cut the 90% and save the 10% you’ll try to save the 90% and cut the 10. And you’ll still have a shitty novel.
So here’s what I propose: Take your manuscript. Bask in its completeness. Pet it. Have a bottle of wine with it. Whisper to it how much you love it. Then outline it. Outline the structure and character arcs. Then delete it. Don’t just close it and swear you won’t open it; delete it off your computer. Burn every copy you have. If there’s a very special line that you absolutely don’t think you’ll ever be capable of writing again, copy and paste that line into a document. If you don’t think you can bear to delete the manuscript, send it to a friend with strict instructions not to let you see it until you’ve rewritten the thing. Then delete it off your computer. Just get rid of it.
Then take your outline and revise that outline. Look for where the middle sags, look for subplots that aren’t working, look for character arcs to add to or cut. And then, with your new outline, rewrite that manuscript from scratch.
insane being absurd? Yes. But deleting your first draft and rewriting it is better than simply revising it because it frees you from the tyranny of those early words. You are no longer bound to them. You won’t fret over cutting them because there’s nothing to cut. I promise you that not only are you capable of rewriting that novel, but it will be better than if you’d simply tried to revise it.
So do yourself a favor: have a drink, congratulate yourself on finishing NaNoWriMo, and then delete your manuscript. It’ll hurt, but it’ll be worth it.