Wednesday, November 18, 2015

After NaNoWriMo

I'm not doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this year. Actually, I seldom do it because every other month of the year is novel writing month for me, and November is usually when I'm dealing with other things. I'm not opposed to the concept as a motivational tool, though I quibble with some of the arbitrary rules and with the choice of month (I believe January would be a much better month -- no major holiday in the middle of it, not much else going on, the eagerness from new year's resolutions that haven't been broken yet).

If you are participating and are a little more than halfway done with your novel, congratulations, but know that even if you complete the task, the job's not over yet. I've heard editors and agents moaning about how NaNoWriMo means that starting around the first of December, they're going to be bombarded with queries for what turn out to be half-baked books that are obviously NaNoWriMo products. Here are some suggestions about what you can do to not be one of the people editors and agents moan about.

1) Remember that writing "The End" doesn't mean it's over.
A fast-and-furious writing process like you have to do to write a novel in a month means that the result is a first draft, and probably a very rough draft, at that. Your book probably still needs a lot of work. In some respects, the first draft may be the easy part. Revision is where the real work comes in, and it will probably take more than a month.

2) Take your time moving forward.
There's no benefit to being one of those December 1 queriers. You'll just be lost among all the others. Instead, put your draft aside. Enjoy the holiday season. If you think of additional ideas for what you could do with this story, write them down, but don't look at the book. After the holidays, reread what you've written with fresh eyes, then plan the revisions you need to do. Make those revisions. Get a second opinion from a trusted, qualified reader. Only when you're absolutely sure the book is finished and ready should you start submitting it. Then you won't obviously fall into the crowd of overeager NaNoWriMo participants, both because of timing and because of quality. This also applies to the decision to self publish. I'm sure there will be scores of new books popping up on Amazon in December and January from authors who eagerly completed them in November. Many of these books won't be ready for publication. Take your time to make your product ready to go to market, however you do that.

3) Do your research on how to market your book
While you're putting the book aside and doing revisions, make sure you have the information you need to decide how best to get your book into the market, whether it's by finding an agent and going the route of traditional publication or by self publication. Figure out where your book fits into the market by genre and subgenre. Look at which publishers are publishing that kind of book. Research which agents are looking for that kind of material, and thoroughly vet any agents and publishers to make sure they're legitimate. Learn how they want to be approached. If you decide that self publishing is the route for you, you'll need to find a good copyeditor, possibly a developmental editor (works on the story, as opposed to grammar, spelling, and punctuation), and you'll need to decide whether to go exclusively with one venue or go broad. Learning about the various book distribution venues is a lot like researching publishers. There's more to it than uploading a file to Amazon.

4) The book you've written may not ever make it to print, and that's okay.
One of the main points behind the NaNoWriMo project is to encourage all those people who are saying they'll write a novel someday to sit down and give it a shot, and to finish it. Not every book that's written needs to be published. Sometimes, just trying it is enough. You may learn that this isn't for you. You may see that your story idea doesn't work all that well. You may have enjoyed the writing process but don't care to publish. All of that is fine. The one book I've written as a NaNoWriMo project is still sitting on my hard drive. It has a beginning, middle, and end, but it's not a finished book because it needs substantial rewrites. I'm not particularly driven to do those rewrites because I'm not sure about what the book needs to be. I've completed eight books since I wrote that one, so obviously that didn't stall me out. It was a good exercise that forced me to complete an idea that had been living in my head for a long time and that got me through a slump when I was out of the habit of writing regularly.

Hmm, maybe I should take another look at that book ...

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