NaNoWriMo Week 5: Now what?

If you finished your National Novel Writing Month writing project–group hug!
If you wrote 50K but you didn’t actually finish your novel–group hug!
If you met your goals, whatever they were, even if they didn’t involve 50K–group hug!
If you didn’t finish but wrote a lot–group hug!
If you didn’t finish and didn’t get much written–group hug!
If you signed up but chickened out–group hug!

If you’re trying to figure out how many more words you can get in before midnight Wednesday–no touchee, you might bite my head off.

At any rate–what next?

Because your body responds to stress in a fight-or-flight pattern, and because surviving to the end of that stress is what your body counts as a FREAKIN’ MIRACLE, after NaNoWriMo, you’re probably tired and smiling. “We lived again,” says your body. “Whee!”

So, number one, whether you “won” or not, celebrate!

Two: the second biggest hurdle to most beginning writers, after actually writing a novel, is getting it sent out.  “Ha ha,” you say, “isn’t that logical?” but it’s true: if 90% of the people who say, “I’d like to write a novel some day” never do, then 90% of the people who write a novel leave it in their drawers, collecting dust.

The problem here is two-fold: to be able to achieve critical distance from your novel without actually getting so far away from it that you abandon it.

Agents and editors will be able to tell you, from first-hand experience, that their slush piles get flooded this time of year, as people who are still high on the endorphin rush of sheer survival send out their manuscripts without bothering to spellcheck them or do any kind of critical thinking about them whatsoever.

But what they don’t see is that these are the people who succeeded overcoming hurdle #2, even if they didn’t do so in a professional manner. Really, if I had to pick erring between sending out a novel too early and never sending it out at all, I’d say send it. What’s the worst that could happen? Somebody rolls their eyes at you and sends out a form rejection, then complains in public forums about doing what they were going to do anyway: reject 99%+ of everything that comes across their desk.  Whoop de freakin’ do.

Ideally, though, you send out a professional manuscript, or at least the most professional manuscript (or self-publish the most professional ebook) that you can.

What we really need is a National Novel Editing Month, except it would probably take more than a month, because really, you should have someone else with a critical eye read the thing, so what we really need to set up is:

  • National Novel Writing Month
  • National Novel Manuscript Preparation Month
  • National Novel Reading Month
  • National Novel Polish Month

In National Novel Manuscript Preparation Month, you would:

  • Formatting (either standard manuscript format or ebook–formatting makes big uglies pop out)
  • Going back and filling in the spots you meant to write but hadn’t got to yet
  • Spell check
  • Line editing
  • Don’t think too critically about it yet (“Don’t torture yourself, Gomez.  That’s my job.”–Morticia Addams)

In National Novel Reading Month, you would:

  • Send out your novel to six readers who write the same genre you write in
  • Read their novels–quickly, without too much analytical thought (reading for fun!)
  • Exchange comments

Take a month off and think about it…

Then, in National Novel Polish Month, you would:

  • Fix any big uglies that your readers caught, that you agree with wholeheartedly, after a month
  • Spell check
  • Line editing*

And then, get it out!

What’s the worst that could happen?  You might get some rejections (or it might not take off as a self-published ebook).  Ack!  It’s embarrassing, but it happens to everyone, even (especially) to professional writers.  You might even define a professional writer as “someone who got so many rejections that they got published by default.”  It’s not entirely true, but true enough.

Above all, don’t let the complaints of agents and editors around this time of year about horrible NaNoWriMo novels getting submitted throw you off, and don’t let the news articles about a mountain of epublished crap taking over the self-publishing world stop you, either.  You don’t see it hit the news when anyone else starts out in a field–“Can you believe that cube warrior?  He screwed up and wrote a lengthy business email with typos and all caps in it. He’ll never make it in this line of business.”  “You should see the mountain of crappy PowerPoints out there…it makes me never want to read a PowerPoint again.”  Sure, you should get better at your job, but you shouldn’t let the old hands dissuade you.  Gotta start somewhere.

You’ve already made that 90% cut once–do it twice, and you’re already ahead of 99% of the people who want to write a book someday.  Keep writing; you’ll get good.

*If you can’t do professional-level editing on your own, I’d get help here, either way.


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  1. I got to 26k. That’s good enough for me, especially everything that’s going on in my life right now. I didn’t set out to “win”; I set out to write. So 26k in one swoop, given how life has been the last two years, is something short of a miracle right now.

  2. De

    Congratulations on overcoming life stuff! You have done well 🙂

  3. Karen

    What a great post! I especially like “Manuscript Preparation Month” and need the most help there! Congratulations on NaNo!

    • De

      Many thanks 🙂 I have a push-pull relationship with editing, too. I like writing. I like having edited…

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