So NaNoWriMo has come to a close. You did it! You bested the holiday and fought through the distractions and emerged victorious! You probably learned a lot in the process: how you work, what time is best for you to write, and what it takes for you to power through a challenge like NaNo. It’s a good exercise. Now you have 40k words sitting there, and it’s time to do something… but what exactly? Here’re six tips for moving forward:
1. Set Your Manuscript Aside
You just spent a solid month with your book. That’s a lot of time and often it’s difficult to pull away and see the whole picture. If you’re anything like me, odds are there’s a lot of work to go before your manuscript is ready to shop. Giving yourself time away from the manuscript will allow you to return with fresh eyes and a clear head. So what do you do in the interim? Start your next project (see point six), relax a bit, read someone you find inspiring: just get your mind off that manuscript so later you can give it a solid and honest revision.
2. Think About How You’re Going To Expand
Unless you’re writing middle-grade most publishers won’t want a 40k word novel. Even YA tends to be around 50-60k minimum. Adult novels range from 80k-90k words, and sci-fi and fantasy can get into the 100-110k word range. (Check out Chuck Sambuchino’s great post on word count here.) None of these are hard and fast rules, but it’s always good to shoot for the average range within the genre you’re targeting. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to expand, and I’ll cover some of that in point three. If you’re going to publish independently, you can ignore this completely. There are no set rules for independent publishing. Just make sure you’re telling the best damn story possible.
3. Revise, Revise, Revise
Stage one is done, you’ve let the manuscript rest for a time, and now you’re ready for revisions. It’s time to go through your manuscript and tackle all those things you ignored to hit that word count by the target date. Trust me, they’ll be there. I tend to find that as I revise, my book grows and shrinks. As I mentioned in point two, odds are you’re going to need to expand. So, if you’re worried about your overall length don’t worry. As Tolkien said, “this tale grew in the telling.” He’s not wrong. I find that there’s usually a lot I left out in that first draft, and I find it’s not difficult to find myself adding significant portions to a story. When you’re finished with your first revision, go through it again! There’s no set number of revisions, just make sure you get the book to a point where you’re comfortable sharing it with alpha/beta readers and eventually editors.
4. Get Some Eyes On That Thing!
Ask some friends who are willing to overlook your typos and grammatical errors to read your manuscript. This isn’t an edit pass. You want folks who can look past errors and focus on character development, plot, pacing, and world building. Listen to their feedback and incorporate or ignore it as you see fit. It’s good to gauge what works and what doesn’t. There’s a lot of good advice on finding and working with alpha/beta readers, three great posts I’d recommend:
- 5 Things You Should Know about Working with Beta Readers
by Joel Friedlander
- Writing Excuses Podcast: Alpha Readers
by Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler, & Dan Wells
and specifically for readers:
5. Think About Your Go-To-Market Strategy
The manuscript is finished; it’s time to consider your choices. You can shop the manuscript to publishers or take the self-publishing road. Neither are bad decisions, but you need to find what works for you.
You’ll need to find an agent, which means synopsis and query letters and rejections. Once that’s done the agent will need to find an editor which means more rejections until you find one. However, once you find a publisher willing to take you on they’ll do a lot of the heavy lifting. They’ll handle promotion and cover design and provide you with an editor. They’ll also throw an advance your way as well.
To me, this is a lot more than just throwing your manuscript online and letting it go. I think doing independent publishing properly requires a small business mindset. You need to start thinking like a publisher. You need to be honest with yourself about your skillset. Most folks will need to hire an editor. You’ll also probably want to hire a designer for the cover and perhaps figure out how to do the layout for your printed publication. There’re some services to help you: Amazon’s CreateSpace has layout and cover design packages and recently Nook has launched their own line. It’ll require some initial investment, but your readers will appreciate the attention to detail. Once that’s decided you’ll need to consider marketing. With independent publishing, you’re essentially deciding to become a small business and that is daunting to some people. There’s a lot to that, but I think it’s best saved for a future blog post.
6. Start Your Next Project
If you want to be a writer you have to keep writing. So start your next story! Maybe it’s a sequel, perhaps it’s something completely different, maybe something you left out or something you didn’t have the ability to explore might work better as its own stand alone book. It’s important to keep working and honing those skills. Live every month like it’s National Novel Writing Month.
Finally, and most important, congrats on finishing. Forty-thousand words is an immense accomplishment, and you should be proud! You have done what a lot of people only dream of doing. You’re a writer! Now get out there and share your work with the world.
What advice would you give your fellow NaNoWriMo participants? Has anyone ever shared some advice that has stuck with you? Leave a comment and let us know!