Thursday, December 1, 2022

Dear O'Abby: I won NaNo - What now?

 Dear O'Abby,

I didn't think I'd do it, but I actually won NaNo this year.  I wrote just over 60K in November and finished a whole book.  I've tried a couple of time before and never finished, and there were times this month I was certain I'd fail again, but I did it!

But what do I do now?  

This is the first novel I've ever actually finished and I'm super excited for people to be able to read it.  How do I get it published now?


NaNo Winner

Dear NaNo Winner,

Congratulations!  Winning NaNo is a great feeling, right?  And you should be proud of yourself.  It's no mean feat to write 60K in a month!  Celebrate that.


You're not finished.

Writing that first draft is only the beginning of the journey.  The best thing you can do right now is put those words you wrote in November aside and take a break.  Or, if you're still buzzing from the habit of writing every day, start something new.  Start a new book, or if you're not sure you have the energy or ideas, write some short stories or flash fiction.  Write a journal.

Just don't touch that novel you wrote.

You need at least a month or two away from those words.  Maybe even three.  Then you will have enough distance from what you wrote to go back and look at it with some perspective. Any first draft needs work, and from my experience, NaNo drafts need more than most because of the speed they're written at.

So, when you've let that MS rest a while, go back and re-read it.  Write yourself notes about what works and what doesn't.  Check for inconsistencies like a character being called Leon on page 12, 27 and 42, then being called Luke throughout the rest of the book or someone whose startlingly blue eyes become brown or green at some later point.  Or those places where a day get stretched or compressed (people don't usually eat breakfast and then go straight to bed, exhausted).  There are likely to be all kinds of things you find that don't 100% make sense from giant plot holes to places where characters do or say things that seem out of character.

Once you've found all the things that are wrong with your draft, you can fix them.  Then let the book rest a few weeks and go back again.  I guarantee you'll find a whole raft of other issues this time through.

Rinse. Repeat.

Writing that first draft is only the beginning.  I am literally only now reaching the point with my 2020 NaNo project where it is getting close to being ready to think about publication.  And I think probably only about 30% of the words I wrote in 2020 are still there.  But it's worth doing the work.  And then getting readers to go through to find all the things you missed on your own.

Publishing is super competitive and if you want to find an agent, or even if you're planning to self-publish, you want to put your best out there.  So don't rush it.  I know it's exciting to have finished and thrilling to imagine readers diving into story you wrote, but take the time to make sure it's the best possible book you can write first.

Once again, congratulations on finishing.

And good luck with revising!

X O'Abby

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