Good, now that I’ve got your attention, you should look at the calendar. NaNo is going to be over in a few days. For many of you who have never done a NaNo before, you’ve been pounding away at the keyboard trying to complete your novel. (And if you’ve done it, then YAY!!!!! GO YOU! If not, keep plugging away.)
Sometime next week, NaNo will be officially over for this year, but that just means that your work is moving on to the next phase: editing, polishing, and publishing.
Fortunately, there is a lot of help available from folks who have been through this before and done the NaNo thing, but are now full-time writers. This is a bundle of twelve books that will help you with the various bits and pieces you need as you decide you like writing, and want to move on to doing this as a career. (And yes, you can make a career of it. I no longer have any other job, except feeding the cat.)
This is also the official NaNo bundle for 2018, so they have been reviewed to some extent to make sure that you’re getting good information from professionals who want to help you, rather than predators (the old days of vanity press) who just want to take your money and screw you.
Never trust someone who demands lots of money up front. There are services that are legitimate, and they’ll give you references you should talk to before giving them cash. Or talk to your friends. We’re building a whole support economy here.
For now, finish your novel. If you have, then take a deep breath and do a HAPPY DANCE!!!!!! around the room a few times. You have now done something a minuscule fraction of the world ever accomplishes.
Next week, you’ll put it aside and forget about it. Leave it for at least a week. Then come back and read it top to bottom. Clean copy means that you only need to fix a few errors, clean up some language, and then you are ready to go.
If you don’t write clean copy, you need to learn. I’m sorry, but that’s the only way to succeed anymore. The old days of an editor doing major surgery to fix your manuscript are gone, if they ever existed. It is a skill you can learn. Several of these books show you how, step by step.
Then you clean the document up and send it to a First Reader. Not a Critique Group. NEVER a Critique Group. You want someone to read it and tell you what sections work or don’t work, rather than someone redlining it like an English teacher. First Reader is an emotional reaction.
- If a reader tells you a passage doesn’t work, they are almost always right.
- If a writer tells you how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.
Get a First Reader you like and trust. Then listen to them and expect to take 75-90% of their comments if you mesh well. Not all of them. I have a copy editor I love, who gets me, and I only take 95% of her comments. (She did once correct the day of the week in the year 13,445 CE, and I just assumed she was right, because she’s that good.)
Fix their issues and you are DONE. I know people who use lots of first readers, and lots of drafts, and I think that is a mistake. Each pass strips some of your voice out of the manuscript and eventually you end up with “white picket fence vanilla” as a story. Nothing exciting. No emotion. None of the visceral rawness of good literature. Just pretty words devoid of meaning.
At that point, either publish it or start querying agents, depending on your religious bent. I don’t do TradPub, so I can’t help you with agenting a manuscript. And I feel it is a waste of time, unless you happen to be Joanna Rowling and haven’t told anyone. That’s a one with a whole lot of zeroes behind it if you are.
My process is that it goes into the publishing queue at that point. Finalize. Cover. Blurb. Publish. Repeat. I write fast. I would rather spend my time writing the next novel, instead of spending a lot of effort rewriting this novel. Your Mileage May Vary, but I’ll publish way more than you do as a result. And yours still won’t be twice as good as mine (or three or eight times, depending on how many reworks and redrafts you do).
The best way to learn to write is to write. Not rewrite. If you rewrite, you are teaching yourself to rewrite. Write the next novel and make it better than this one. And then the one after that. Repeat.
So remember to relax when NaNo is done. Take a quick break, and then prepare for the next steps. Maybe read a few books to get you ready for the editing and publishing phase, so you can be successful sooner.
I believe in you. Others will as well. But they can’t buy a novel you never publish, so I need you to step up here and make it happen.
And best of luck. The future is glorious!