What Next?

Soooo... NaNoWriMo is now halfway through. This is my first time. Yes really. I was a NaNoWriMo virgin until this year.


Because I didn't even know there was such a thing until after my first novel was published. And then I found that I was usually in the revision process when everyone else was diving into their NoWri and heading for the 50,000 word finish line, recorded in diligent little blog posts and complaining. This was before Twitter and G+ of course. And maybe even before FaceBook. Yes, it's been such a short time and so much has happened....

What hasn't changed is this: it's still a process which results in (we hope) 50,000 words of story recorded for whatever posterity you choose to reference. Well, it might be more if you've been extra busy and very very clever, not to mention a fast typist with a lot of time on your hands. (And if you are any of these, I hate you.) In A Month! (Yeah, That's a lot in not a lot of time and don't believe anyone who says otherwise.)

So now you look at your opus and you may think one of two things (right after "Thank Dog that's over" and "Go me!" --unless you missed the goal, in which case you're probably thinking that everyone else you know who capped the NaNoWriMo challenge is a cheating, rotten, untalented, goat-molesting, computer-shagging speed typist and a booger head. But I digress!) Here's the two things you may be thinking:

1) I have a novel full of awesome! I'm awesome! In fact, everything's simply wiggly-ducky-tail, kitty-whiskers, puppy-kisses, totally, fickin awesome right now! Wheeee! I'm going to get this baby published!
2) I have 50,000 words of crap. Where can I hide it?

Either way, the answer is: stop. Right now.

See, whether your NoWri is fabulous 50K or craptacular 20K (or a combination of the two), the first thing to do is realize that is is not a novel. Oh I hear some of you aspiring writers winding up the whine-o-matic about how I'm a published writer and I'm a snob and I just want to keep you down. But that's not it (well, maybe it is, but I'm sticking to my original story here!) What you have is a start. And at 50K it's a damned good start. So why stop now? There is so much more to do! (Oh, I know that sounds so mean after all you've done, but it's true!)

Yup, even if you choose to take your NoWri to the wonderland that is electronic self-publishing, you probably should do something to it first. Like... revise it. Spell check at the very least. Possibly--oh I don't know.... Finish it? Get someone else to read it before you format it for Amazon or Smashwords.

Some of you are now thinking "but it's wonderful the way it is" and I say that's the celebratory drinks talking. And the rest are thinking "Into the truck with you, Manuscript-beast!") No matter who you are, now is the time to rest a bit and get another perspective before you charge off to the next phase in your NoWri Adventure (or attempt to hide the body.)

I know some people refer to December as National Novel Revision Month and that works for some people. For others it may be National Novel FINISHING month (it probably will be for me.) Even if the NoWri is kind of smelly and broken, don't just shove it under the bed and pretend it didn't happen. There's something there. OK, so a lot of it will be crap--rough drafts are by definition craptacular and often even shittastic. A few reach the pinnacle of fucktabulous and that's really saying something in the "this stinks" department. And yet... things still get published. (I know from personal experience that wreck-alicious rough drafts--or "Draft Zero" as some say--can still turn into good books; just ask my editor. Hell ask any editor.)

Because the writer doesn't just throw it out to the public at the tender age of 50K and one month. They coddle it a little, feed it a little, pretty it up and take it out for lunch....

And then they beat the ever-loving poo out of it! They get their friends to poke it with sticks and they call it names and they lock it in the closet for a week before they look at it again.

And then they go back to work and make a better version. A complete version. A shiny, happy, lovely version. With all its subplolts intact, and its characters rounded, its plot clean and its prose sparkly--or at least not so rough and misspelled.

And then they dress it up pretty and take it out to meet the Editor....

And thus are novels born. Some won't make it. Some won't try. Some are just exercises and learning experiences and that's fine too--but you won't learn if you don't look at what you did. And there will be a few that, even after the extra polish, are still just turds. But don't make that decision in the sweat of crossing the finish line. Take a moment to savor the victory, or spit out the bitterness of defeat....

Then consider your own personal goal in having participated in NaNoWriMo: what did you want to get out of it? Did you just want to try to write that much in a month? Did you want to write a specific story? Did you want just to beat your writing chops into shape a bit? Did you want to get a good start on a longer work? (Or in my case, finish one.)

Did you get that?

That is what is important. Not 50,000 words, not "a novel" instead of short stories or poems, not how well or how much anyone else did, not what your publisher will think--or if you can get one. Did you meet your goal? Are you happier with yourself as a writer now that November is over?

These are the things you take away from NaNoWriMo. And perhaps more.

While you're deciding what to do next, here are some places to think more about NaNoWriMo and what to do in December:

Jim C. Hines's blog on NaNoWriMo (gotta love Jim!)
Beth Cato's After NaNo post at Women On Writing
Holly Lisle's post on How to Revise Your Novel

Me, I'm going to finish this beast and get it off to the editor. Before she sets the hounds on me....


Sharon Stogner said…
"cheating, rotten, untalented, goat-molesting, computer-shagging speed typist and a booger head."

I haven't heard "booger head" in forever!
Nicole Peeler said…
Great post, Kat! This is the first time I've been able to do Nano, too. It's funny that, as writers, we can't actually write when we want to, but instead have to work around projects and deadlines and edits.

Anyway, I'm loving it and it's making me really reassess just how much I can get done, even during the busiest part of my semester.

So yay Nano and yay us!
Anonymous said…
A manuscript isn't ready for publication until you're so sick of it that you hate yourself for writing it in the first place. If you're in love with it, it's REALLY not ready. ;)

Great post, Kat! This Booger-Head will continue to cheer on your FiMyDaNo efforts. ;)
Bradwick said…
That's a great point, that even if you're not anywhere near having something ready for publication doesn't mean it can't be a success in terms of what you wanted to get accomplished with NaNo.
Beth C. said…
Great post. I was reading and nodding along and then did a triple take at the end when I saw my own name. Thanks for linking to that old article of mine!
Kat Richardson said…
It's a good article, Beth. I went through a lot of old NaNo links to find the ones that were thoughtful and informative, not just pushing the writer to self-publish or send it out the moment NaNo was over. Thanks for writing it!
Roxanne Skelly said…
My first time at Nano as well. It's been a learning experience, that's for sure. Funny, with my project, Some of my work is okay, and some is utter crap, and the crap is in the details.

I like my premise (1%, meet your machine overlords). My plot is pretty good. I've been writing every day (yay). My character development and world development is mediocre. My dialog is 'meh.' And my prose is horrid. Let's not even talk about things like spelling and punctuation.

I do think this will leave me with a firm foundation.

And hey, it's another 50k towards the million words I need to get the hang of this writing thing.
bettielee said…
Anyone that wants to be a writer and has read the books and done their research knows that every word you write here is true. December is NaNo Finishing Month for me. And then it goes in the drawer to simmer. And allegedly be revised, but I rarely get to that. Which is very stupid.

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