Thursday, November 26, 2020

Dear O'Abby: What next?

 Dear O'Abby,

I have just about finished the book I started writing for NaNo and was wondering what I do next.  This is the first time I've attempted NaNo and I was pretty surprised at myself for being able to do it.  Not only did I write the 50,000 words, but I've almost finished my book.  I think I'll be done by the end of next week.

I want to get it published now, so was wondering if you had any advice about what to do next.



Dear First-Timer,

Let me congratulate you on both finishing NaNo and completing your book.  Both are fantastic achievements and you should be very proud of yourself.  I'm proud of you too!

But talking about publishing right now is jumping the gun a little bit...  There are a lot of steps that need to be taken before you even start thinking about that.

What you've written this month is a first draft, not a finished novel.  In fact, I don't even call my NaNo drafts a first draft; I call them zero-drafts or vomit drafts.  They're a basic idea of a novel which may have moments of beauty and insight, but are definitely not ready for anyone, even my closest critique partners, to read.

The first thing you should do is leave the book alone for a few weeks.  Write something else, or take a nice holiday break from your story.  In three or four weeks you can go back to it with fresh eyes and a level of perspective you won't have right now.

Then the hard work of revising begins.  You will probably find there are parts of the story you need to fill in, character details you figured out as you wrote that need to be woven into the characters earlier in the story, plot points that might not make a lot of sense where they happen in the story and myriad other things.  You will probably find you spend far longer revising and re-writing than you did writing your initial draft.  I usually find it takes me around 6-9 months to get a NaNo draft polished up enough to send out to readers.

Which is the next step.  You need to find people to read for you, people who can give you constructive feedback that you can use.  You might want to join a critique group online (or in person if we're ever allowed to do that again) or you might know some other writers in your area who might be willing to read for you.

You need to be prepared for critique at this stage.  Sometimes feedback from readers is harsh and not at all what you were expecting.  Readers might hate your favorite character or think the plot point you believed was cleverly crafted falls flat.  They might have issues with your character arcs, with the pacing.

Take some time to digest the feedback you get.  Some may resonate while some may not.  But it's important to consider it all and implement what you feel will help make your story stronger.

Then rinse and repeat...  Maybe then you can start thinking about publishing and the steps you can take toward it.

Hope this helps and doesn't discourage you too much. It's a lot of work, but it really is worthwhile and your book will be so much better for it.

X O'Abby

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