Friday, November 30, 2012

NaNoWriMo: What's Next

Congratulations on winning
NaNoWriMo. Congratulation
on trying in the first place.
The last day of November means it's also the last day of NaNoWriMo. Did you write 50,000 words in 30 days? Or more? Is your novel finished?

And by finished, I mean, do you have a hot mess of a Zero Draft? By that I mean you've written something that's really just story-spew splattered all over the place, that needs some loving attention to make it a proper story. You have to decide what your next step is and you're tired from all the late nights, the caffeine and sugar-fueled writing sessions and maybe you're not thinking straight about what you've accomplished. Maybe you should ask yourself:

What do you want to do with it?

That's a question you'll hear a lot if you share that you've been noveling with anyone who isn't. Actually you may hear things like How many novels have you published? and Is it any good? just as often. That can be frustrating.

But let's explore What do you want to do with it?

Some people (I know a few) write during NaNoWriMo for pure pleasure. The challenge, the camaraderie, and pure fun of creating. They have no intention of publishing. I know someone who's burned a manuscript after logging it for a win on the NaNo site. If this describes you, more power to you. Writing is a hobby for you and you enjoy it and the heck with anyone who thinks that's crazy. You're my kind of people. I want to hear your stories.

But if you want to get this story published, or if getting published is your goal, then what next? Here's some advice:


  1. Read what you've written. The best thing you can do is know what you've done. Let it sit for a while once you're done writing then pull it out and give it a read. Prepare to wince at empty characters, gaping plot holes, and maybe some bizarre stream-of-consciousness weirdness. It's okay.
  2. If you like what you've written, do a quick revision for spelling, basic sentence structure, fleshing out characters who could conceivably fill some of those gaping plot holes. Do this in a month, like you'd do NaNoWriMo. This is the kind of thing you do with your child before sending them to school. You're ensuring their hair is combed, teeth brushed, and shoes tied before heading out the door.
  3. Once that's done, ask someone whose opinion you trust to read your story. It has to be someone who'll tell you if what you've written is crap just as easily as if they'd tell you it's brilliant. You also have to be prepared to hear the things about your novel that aren't good. Don't give it to someone if you don't want to know the bad along with the good.
  4. When give your trusted reader(s) the book, give them a list of questions you want answered: How does it read? Is the dialogue natural? Am I head-hopping to change POV? Is there too much violence? Too much sex? Not enough? Don't give a long list of questions, maybe ten or so is enough. What you really want to know is whether or not the story is worth your time to revise. Could it be better? is a great question to ask immediately followed by How?
  5. When you get comments back from your reader(s) say Thank You. That may be the most important part of the entire process. The people providing you feedback are giving you their time, you can afford to be gracious even if they tell you what you don't want to hear. 

Finally, don't get frustrated if it takes you a long time to get a draft you feel is presentable. There are a lot of stories about how long it takes to write a decent draft. One of the most famous is Harper Lee taking a year to write a draft of To Kill A Mockingbird, then taking two and a half more years to do the revisions and get it in front of the public. Not everyone is Piers Anthony or Stephen King. Even those guys aren't producing like they did early in their careers any more. Don't put unrealistic expectations on yourself.

What you've done, by writing a novel in a month or a little longer, is AMAZING. Bask in that for a while. When you decide what you want to do with the book - whether revise it or burn it - it's your decision. Do not let anyone's jealousy (I wish I could write a book) bring you down. You did it. You took the steps necessary to chase a dream.

No one can take that away from you.

If you're not quite done, keep writing. If your story is told, give yourself a pat on the back. You're awesome. Now - 

What's next?