04 December, 2012

NaNoWriMo: Editing and Publishing

For many of you who participated in NaNoWriMo this year, it was the motivational equivalent of a good, swift kick in the pants. Others were out to prove themselves on the literary field of battle. Still others were professional writers looking for a quick way to get their next draft out. And some merely did it because it sounded like it might be an amusing distraction.

Whatever your reason was for setting out to write a month-long novel, you have one thing in common with all the other participants: every single person wrote a FIRST DRAFT. It is a mistake - and one that I have seen repeated often - to think that the novel you're holding is a finished manuscript.

No matter what you or anyone else thinks about it, it is NOT ready to be sent to literary agents, editors, or publishers. Those professionals will not thank you for sending them a manuscript that has been hashed out in thirty days. Why?
  • Your novel is nowhere near polished enough for submission, no matter how excited you are about it. That kind of editing takes time.
  • Agents and editors report a flood of new novel submissions in the weeks and months following each NaNoWriMo. Most are not even read.
Your NaNoWriMo novel should be treated just like any other novel. It doesn't matter how it was written or why - you still have to revise it again and again to make it perfect. Here are a few dos and don'ts to get you started in that process:

Do let your novel rest

When November ends, set aside the manuscript. Take a break from writing, even. Let your mind - and passions - rest. My advice is to wait at least two weeks before looking at it again. I always revisit my manuscript January 1st.  When you come back, you'll have a clear head and some much-needed distance from the story that will help you in more accurately evaluating it.

Don't trust your own opinion

Obviously, to a certain extent, you know what's best for your story. But that doesn't mean that no one else can offer advice or insights. Get your manuscript to some readers that you trust but who will also tell you the absolute truth (even if it's a suggestion to look at other lines of work). I guarantee that your novel will benefit from it.

Do take your time

Read the manuscript. Make notes. Sort. Edit. Repeat. Take your time. Put 110% into your revisions. It may take several drafts to get it right. That's okay. It probably needs it. Think of it as a diamond in the rough. Little by little, you are uncovering its beauty through the editing process.

Don't brag that you wrote your novel during NaNoWriMo

No one cares. That's the cold, hard truth.  It might be the greatest personal accomplishment of your life. But what it says to publishing professionals is, "Caution: noob writer ahead." You may not be. But NaNoWriMo has become so synonymous with first-time writers that it's better to keep that to your support network that helped you through November.

Do the footwork

All of it. Study the industry. Find the publishing houses that cater to your exact genre. Research the agents that represent authors like you. Write a query letter that knocks the socks off anything you can find in your novel.

NaNoWriMo is fun, motivational, and full of awesome people from all walks of life. But it's only the beginning of your noveling journey. If you are serious about publishing your NaNoWriMo novel, don't send it off as soon as you write "The End."

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