It’s done. NaNoWriMo finished a few weeks ago and you’re done. Since you’re here, I assume you were diligent enough to hit the 50K goal and ‘win’ NaNoWriMo this year. Your manuscript is done and you’re feeling good about yourself. But then it hits you:
What Do I Do Next?
This is a question I hear from aspiring authors when they finish NaNoWriMo. I worked in publishing so people want to know what I think. And there’s usually follow-up questions like: do I send this to an agent or directly to a publisher, should I publish this myself, and so on.
I typically react the same way every year: Whoa whoa whoa. You’re not at that point yet. You might be done with a first draft, but it’s far from submission ready. Take the time to give your book several revision passes; you won’t regret it.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed trying to fix everything. Everyone’s process is different but it can be helpful to give each pass a focus. For example, in your first pass make sure that you’re not jumping point-of-view (POV) characters too often and that the POV character for each scene is clear. In your second pass weed out grammatical errors—particularly passive voice. Then, in a third pass make sure that all your tenses match, i.e., is the story past tense or present tense? If you do another pass, look for factual errors or see if you have the diversity you want in your book.
Does that sound like a lot of work? Sorry, but it is. There’s no easy way around this. You have to put in the effort. And don’t bother telling me about all the crap books out there. Do you want your writing lumped in with those books? Because if you don’t revise your book, it will be.
There is no set number of revisions that a book needs. Your book will need as many revision passes as your book needs. I would say after three or four revisions passes find some people to read your manuscript. People who will give an honest opinion. That way you don’t get bogged down revising all the time. You’ll also be surprised at how much it helps to have a critical eye go over your writing.
I get it. I do understand. I’m not an ogre. It’s exciting. You typed ‘The End’ and now you want to share. You have visions of talk shows and movie options and bestseller lists dancing in your brain (am I the only daydreamer here?) but you have set realistic expectations for yourself.
If you don’t normally write 50,000 words/month then chances are the manuscript you just finished is very rough. You don’t have the experience to turn out decent first-pass prose. You have to revise.
At best you get form rejections. At worst you get someone who writes back asking why you’re wasting their time (which happened to me). Rejection is not easy but it’s part of this business.
If good writing and bad writing both get rejected, then why put in the effort of fixing your writing? Well, you want your manuscript to make an impact. There are all sorts of reasons why books get rejected and you’d be surprised at how often someone has to say no to a good book. But if you write competently, editors will remember you. And since you’re not done writing, your chances improve with each subsequent book.
Get the idea? You’re done but this is just the beginning.