I write. This blog is the home of samples of my writing and articles about my journey as a literary alchemist. Also, keep an eye out for book and podiobook reviews, and maybe eventually guest articles. Find me on Facebook and on Twitter @afgrappin.
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Sunday, December 8, 2013
Okay, I need to apologize up front. It's taken me much longer to get this post up than it should have. This is the post-NaNoWriMo post... I should have put this baby up a week ago, but well... NaNo's end always leaves a little divot in my energy levels. Oh, what am I saying? It leaves a HUGE dent in my energy levels. Unlike previous years, I'm not taking December off from writing like I usually do. I've always taken it to recharge after the insanity that is NaNo, and... I'm not doing that this year. So I'm a little off my routine. Besides, you guys expect a certain amount of communication from me, and I've been neglecting it since NaNo. So, I'm getting back into the usual swing. As is normal, this month you are getting a writing article (this one), a book review, and a short story. Keep an eye out for the other posts later in December. For now, YOU SURVIVED!
I Survived NaNoWriMo. Now What?
Well, we made it. It's December. Finally. That was a pretty intense 30 days, wasn't it? How did you do? Seriously, I'm asking. Let me know in the comments! I hit 50K words on 11/09/13 and finished out the month with 110,675 words. But you know I'm an overachiever and this is my 5th NaNo, so it's kind of old hat to me. Of course, each NaNo presents its own challenges.
Anyway, this post isn't really about me. It's about you. Whether you finished your 50K words or not, you've done an amazing thing just by participating! Now you're probably asking yourself, "Well, what the crap do I do now?" I've asked myself this quite a few times, too. Here are the answers I came up with, in no particular order. And just for fun, I'm putting these out in a Do/Don't format.
Take a look at your manuscript, whether it's handwritten, typed, scrimshawed, in cuneiform, runic, English, or another language. Seriously. Look at it. LOOK AT IT! I know you've spent the last 30 days with it always nearby, seemingly always in front of your eyes and hands, working on it, but I want you to take a minute and just look at it. Don't judge it, don't criticize your word choices or handwriting, the typos and punctuation errors. Look at what's in front of you. I don't care how much or how little you've written. I don't care if you finished 200,000 words (yes, there are people who do that during NaNo) or you only have a paragraph. You have the makings of a freaking BOOK in front of you. I heard a statistic once that like 80% of Americans want to write a book. Do you know how many actually do? Nowhere near that. They don't even start. But you did, and the proof is right there before your eyes. Own it! YOU did that!
You remember all those people, the family and friends you told about NaNo to help you prepare? Now it's time to let them know just what you accomplished! You have at least started (if not finished) a novel! I don't care if it's your first or your hundred-and-first. That's no mean feat! You deserve a pat on the back, a hug, some bragging rights, and maybe a cupcake. Go get those things!
DO Keep Writing
Didn't actually hit 50K? Or did you hit 50K but the book still isn't finished? Or have you whomped out a massive number of words and wrapped up your plot? Either way, you still need to do the same thing: keep writing. If you haven't already, finish your NaNo novel. If you have finished your NaNo novel, you can start writing something else while you're editing your finished draft. What am I saying? I want you to edit one project while working on another? Yeah! I need to do a blog post on this. Another time. I'll go into editing in a minute, at least a little. The point is that even though NaNo is done, you're not. If you've finished your NaNo novel, write a short story or something. Just keep writing. Anything works. Write a To-Do list. Write your daily schedule. Write down that freaky dream you had last night. Just. Keep. Writing.
What was that about editing? You finished your novel and want to get it published? (See below for more information on why that's a bad idea.) Trust me. You need to edit first. I can't harp enough on how NaNo does NOT give you a finished novel. It gives you a first draft, finished or unfinished. NaNo's parent non-profit organization, The Office of Letters and Light, also hosts the less-popular NaNoEdMo, National Novel Editing Month. I've never actually done this one myself, but if you're interested in the details, find some information here (http://www.test.nanoedmo.net/).
So what's the deal with editing? And what was that about me saying you should edit your NaNo novel WHILE writing something else? Well, writing and editing are two different parts of your brain. Or at least, they should be. Sometimes it's nice to take a break from writing to spend some time editing another project. Or to take time away from editing one project to write something else. I will do a more detailed post on this in the future. I promise.
But the point is that your draft will need editing. Lots of it. Remember how every word counts and you didn't delete anything? I bet there's plenty to be deleted. Did you change characters' names, appearances, or just plain out forget to put in any description at all? Then you know you need editing. Do you think you have a solid first draft? Edit it anyway. Trust me. It seems like a pain, but you need to do it. NO ONE gets it perfect the first time. Not even the biggest names you can think of manage it in the first draft. Some of the uber-talented writers pull the edit-as-they-go trick, but if you ask me, that counts as two drafts, so even that isn't the first try. So edit. Edit. Edit. Edit.
Just fyi, I also edit these posts. They don't go through an intense edit, but they do get an edit. NOTHING is exempt.
DO NOT Immediately Submit Your Finished Draft to an Agent or Publisher
If you paid any attention at all to the previous bullet point, you should be able to figure out why this is a bad idea. Your draft needs to be edited. I've heard it said that publishers get swamped in December and January with finished NaNo projects. I'll wager dollars to doughnuts that NONE of those actually get accepted by publishers. Or if they do, it's like one in a hundred million. Your novel is NOT finished just because it's December 1. Novels take months to write. Sometimes years. But don't despair. It is doable (or else we wouldn't have any books at all), and you've taken a huge first step! Besides, don't you want your book to be the best it can be before you try to get a publisher to buy it? I do. If there's something that bugs you about your novel, you can go back and fix it! You really don't have any deadline, so don't be afraid to take your time now that NaNo is done!
DO NOT Give Up
Wow... it takes a lot of work to write a book, doesn't it? And that was just a first draft! Having trouble fathoming all the other work you need to do to really finish that novel? I said it before, but it bears repeating: it is doable. And believe me, it's worth it. It's amazing, finishing something and seeing that book on the shelf. It's kind of freaky knowing that other people have a full-fledged copy of your book in their hands (or on their e-reader, or whatever). It's so rewarding. And it's not something that just anyone can do. So please, I beg you, do not give up on your project, or more importantly, on yourself. It's tough, but if it were easy, everyone would do it, right? It's the same reason we're not all major league baseball players, professional ballerinas, Catholic priests, or Robert Downey, Jr. They all work at what they do, and we have to, too.
DO Collect Your Winner Goodies
Winner goodies? You mean we get OTHER stuff for finishing NaNo? If you hit 50K, you do! Your goodies change every year, and they usually consist of things like discounts on buying Scrivener, a free or discounted proof copy of your book from Createspace.com, and other fun things. Check out the Winner Goodies page at nanowrimo.org to see what this year's goodies are!