Today is Day 24, and really, functionally, it’s the second to last day of NaNo. Unless you’re a hermit with no friends, the rest of this month is blown — you’re having Thanksgiving this weekend, you’re shopping for Christmas…. so, how’d it go?
Did you finish your novel? I hope you did. I truly do, because it’s a monumental accomplishment by any standard. That being said, those of you who didn’t, you have nothing to feel ashamed about. A lot of people start novels and don’t finish them right away. The trick is to keep moving forward, not to stop just because November is over.
The Next Step for Novelists
According to NaNoWriMo’s own website, “In January and February, we support the revision and publishing process. It’s an extension of our anything-goes, wombat-infused noveling philosophy, with the added aim of helping you fulfill your novel’s potential: from first draft to final.” That’s nice, NaNo.
What this really means is that December is about fleshing out that novel skeleton you wrote. 50,000 words is a good start, but it’s not really a novel — it’s a novella at very best. And it’s probably not done. There are plenty of places you could go back and describe the room a little more, explain some character’s motivation or just.. you know… clean up plot holes.
Remember how I said not to look back? Well, after your holiday shopping, it’s time to do just that. Look back. Re-read your work, make it fatter, feed it the brain stuff it needs to explode with life. Now, if you’re not done with your first draft, no peekies. But this blog is for those people who are more or less done telling their story.
Telling your story is only the start, though. Here are the other things you need to do:
Revisit. Go back over your story, look at every nook and cranny and flesh it out, add more stuff and clarify whatever doesn’t make a ton of sense.
Revise. Once you’ve written and re-written until you’re happy, it’s time to start revising. Take out the stuff that doesn’t work, move around sections to where they make more sense, put some order to that thing! Read it again, maybe gather up some test readers to help.
Proofread. Read each word carefully. Look for spelling, punctuation, usage and other grammar errors. This is important, it really is. Polishing that stone until it shines is the trick to a professional manuscript. That’s what separates the pros from the chumps.
Submit. You thought I was going to finish that with “to a publisher,” didn’t you? Ha ha ha ha ha ha hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. Not even. Submit it to a professional editor for the treatment it needs to get it ready to either be self-published or to finally be submitted to a publisher. You never know. But get it edited by someone who can edit.
Don’t ask your friend, your neighbor, your English teacher to do it — because regardless of their good intentions, it won’t come out looking like a pro wrote it. Don’t be a chump, errors and typos make you look sloppy. Editors clean your shit up, they have eyes like eagles.
Writing it Was the First Adventure
You’re written, you’re polished, you’re ready to go. It’s time to start the next chapter — I know it can be rough showing the world your soul. I know. I do it every day, and man, I know. But you can’t be afraid, you’ve come this far, it’s only one giant step more.
Publishing is the hard part. It’s harder than writing, or editing, or showing your work to an editing professional. It’s harder than having a baby or getting your impacted wisdom teeth cut out. It’s harder than climbing a mountain in your underpants.
But it’s necessary. Otherwise, you never know. You never know what you might be. Maybe you’re a genius and the world deserves to know. Even if you don’t think so, maybe someone else does. Maybe your story is the one that parents will read to their children for generations. Maybe you’ll get a movie deal. “John Dies at the End” did, and I’m pretty sure reading it gave me soul cancer.
When I’m in your spot, and I’m about to run away from writing, I remember a little ditty written by Frank Herbert, Mr. Dune himself:
“I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.”
True story: when I was starting out as a copywriter, I recited this to myself daily. Often six, ten, two dozen times in a day. I was so afraid I’d never make a living at this — I was just terrified. But here we are, aren’t we?
And hey, once you get that book all polished up and you’re ready to show it to the world, feel free to drop me an email at WaterworthWrites@gmail.com — I can increase your book sales in ways you probably can’t imagine by using my own special mix of content marketing and social media positioning. That’s what I do. I help geniuses like you get the exposure you deserve, every day of the week.