3 Things You Should NOT Do with Your NaNoWriMo Novel

The end of November is fast approaching, and with it comes the end of NaNoWriMo. The blog posts I’ve read this month have been filled with frenzied accounts of growing word counts and even some samples of WIPs, and for anyone who isn’t participating, November can make you feel like the kid who nobody wants on their team.ID-100211589

I’m an outsider.

No, I didn’t participate in NaNoWriMo this year. But I’ve been right there in spirit, and I hope my comments on some of your blogs have been helpful. (That Week 2 slump is a killer, isn’t it?)

But the end is in sight, and those of you who will “win” NaNo are already intoxicated by the sweet smell of success.

Those who won’t make it have nonetheless learned some valuable lessons about writing, yourself, and your approach to writing—so truly, there is no such thing as NOT winning NaNoWriMo because whether you make that 50,000 word count or not, you’re a better writer now than you were a month ago.

By the way, I agree with Chuck Wendig’s comments about the language of NaNoWriMo, specifically “winning” and “losing.”

This isn’t a game of Monopoly, after all. It’s not a race in which one competes.

It’s writing a book. If you finish your book on December 1st, or January 3rd or May 15th, you still won. Because HOLY SHIT YOU FINISHED A NOVEL.

The goal is to write a book whether it takes you one month or one year—failing to complete 50,000 words in a month that contains Thanksgiving and the ramp up to Christmas should never be regarded as a loser move.”

So whether you’ve already finished your first draft or you expect to do so sometime in 2015, here are three things you shouldn’t do when you cross the finish line:

1.   Don’t throw anything away.

Is your 50,000 word first draft ready for publication? Of course not—but neither should it be deleted from your hard drive. Yes, there are allegedly writers who do that, but please do NOT become one of them.

Even if you’re a writer who believes the act of putting your butt in a seat for 30 days and churning out the bones of a novel is enough of a reward without having to ever read what you wrote, please believe that you’ve written some gems.

Okay, maybe you’ll delete some—or most—of those 50,000 words, but save them in a separate folder. In a month or two you may reread a well-turned phrase you’d forgotten about and will have a brainstorm for an entirely new scene . . . or character . . . or novel!

2.    Don’t begin editing your manuscript.

You’ve spent plus or minus thirty days with this manuscript—and if you outlined in October, that number goes up. Believe me, now is NOT the time to begin editing. You’re too close to your story, and let’s face it—you’ve had an exhausting, emotional month.

Do a happy dance, pat yourself on the back, announce to the world (or at least your Facebook friends) that YOU DID IT, and then put your manuscript away for a while.

For how long? Opinions vary on this one, but long enough that when you open it up again, the story feels new and fresh in that “I can’t believe I wrote this” way. That might be a month or a year, but it shouldn’t be tomorrow. Give yourself some time away to gain a little perspective, and you’ll have more clarity once you being to edit and revise.

Taking a very rough first draft and molding it into a saleable novel will require some ruthless revising and self editing, so give yourself enough time away to gain perspective. As Chuck Wendig writes, “Repeat the mantra: Writing is when I make the words. Editing is when I make them not shitty.”

Award-winning indie author Jade Kerrion knows firsthand how valuable those revisions can be:

NaNo novels are rarely much good at the end of November (but then again, what first drafts are?) However, given enough editing, they can grow into gems. My 2010 NaNo novel became Perfection Unleashed and went on to win six awards. My 2011 NaNo novel, Earth-Sim, picked up 1st place in Young Adult Fiction at the 2013 Royal Palm Literary Awards, and my 2012 novel, When the Silence Ends, took 2nd place in Young Adult Fiction, 2013 Royal Palm Literary Awards.”

Impressive, huh? And notice the awards were won long after she finished NaNoWriMo each year.

3.    Don’t stop writing.

If you’re like most NaNoWriMo authors, you’re pretty excited about ending November with 50,000 words—maybe you have the first draft of a novel, maybe only a third of a longer manuscript, but nevertheless, you’ve written a bodacious number of words in thirty days, and you’ve accomplished something pretty spectacular.

So why quit now? You’ve proven to yourself that you can make the time to write every day, so wrap your mind around that new reality and keep writing.

Should you continue with the same manuscript? Begin a brand-new story? It doesn’t even matter, because you are a writer, and writers gotta write. I love the way author Abbie Plouff put it:

For me, this has been an invaluable month dedicated to writing and storytelling that put me back on the right track. It has shown me that yes, even when life is hectic and crazy, I can still carve out time to work on my writing. The habit of writing—finding time to work every single day, thinking about my novel when I have downtime, and other planning exercises has been invaluable.”

Writer Kathera has a different point of view:

50 K word goal accomplished but the story is not finished yet so I can’t stop now. I’m in the middle of a chase, and I want to find out how it ends. Theoretically I know the outcome, as I am following the outline, but something unexpected may happen, who knows?”

And Chuck Wendig offers:

It helps to look at your NaNoWriMo novel as the zero draft — it has a beginning, it has an ending, it has a whole lot of something in the middle. The puzzle pieces are all on the table and, at the very least, you’ve got an image starting to come together (“is that a dolphin riding side-saddle on a mechanical warhorse through a hail of lasers?”). But the zero draft isn’t done cooking. A proper first draft awaits. A first draft that will see more meat slapped onto those exposed bones, taking your word count into more realistic territory.”

In my book, every writer who even attempts NaNoWriMo should be congratulated. And although I know it will be a few months before those drafts are polished enough to make their way to an editor, I’m already looking forward to the day when that happens. For an editor, the thrill is in peeking under the hood, so to speak, and helping to polish a novel that was only an idea in your head a mere month ago. I can’t wait!

Happy Writing,

Candace

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Candace Johnson is a professional freelance editor, proofreader, writer, ghostwriter, and writing coach who has worked with traditional publishers, self-published authors, and independent book packagers on nonfiction subjects ranging from memoirs to alternative medical treatments to self-help, and on fiction ranging from romance to paranormal. As an editorial specialist, Candace is passionate about offering her clients the opportunity to take their work to the next level. She believes in maintaining an author’s unique voice while helping him or her create and polish every sentence to make it the best it can be. Learn more here.

For more great writing and publishing information, check out  Change It Up Editing and Writing Services on Facebook, where I share interesting articles and links about writing and publishing.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

Table of Contents: Step 8 of How to Write a Compelling Nonfiction Book Proposal in 10 Easy Steps

How to Write a Nonfiction Book ProposalAuthors often forget the importance of the table of contents when they construct a nonfiction book proposal. Some authors treat it as an afterthought, but it is actually an important part of the proposal package.

A complete proposal actually has two tables of contents, and each serves a different and important purpose:

  • One for the proposal itself
  • One for the actual book
A #nonfiction #bookproposal actually has two tables of contents, and each serves a different… Click To Tweet

Let’s begin with the TOC for the proposal itself. Continue reading “Table of Contents: Step 8 of How to Write a Compelling Nonfiction Book Proposal in 10 Easy Steps”

Sample Chapters: Step 7 of How to Write a Compelling Nonfiction Book Proposal in 10 Easy Steps

how to write nonfiction book proposal
Sample chapters need to grab the readers imagination.

You’re coming into the home stretch of writing a book proposal. If you’ve been following this series, you’ve already learned about writing your author bio, the information that should go into your chapter summaries, how to handle competitive titles, identifying your target audience and how you’ll market to them, and how to make agents and editors sit up and take notice of your platform. If you’ve missed any of those previous articles, scroll down to the bottom of this post for links to the first six installments.

If you’re like most writers, you’ve probably already drafted a sample chapter or two; when the idea for your book first strikes, it’s difficult not to begin writing it. Now it’s time to take out that draft and polish it up until it sings. As the Bradford Literary Agency writes, “Draft the chapter that ‘puts your best foot forward’ so to speak. Write the section that is the most interesting, the most compelling and the one that you feel most passionate about.”

Tip: If you’re a new author, I strongly suggest you write your entire book before you query agents. Although it’s perfectly acceptable to shop an idea with a proposal and a few sample chapters, you do not want to be in a position where you are asked for an additional sample chapter or two and you have to hurry to write them. In addition, publishers plan their seasonal lists many months in advance, and if there is any doubt about your ability to finish a manuscript in time, your proposal will most likely get a pass.

Remember that in the end, everything boils down to your writing. No matter how original your book idea is, how spectacular your platform and marketing plans are, or how creatively you’ve compared your book to the competition, it’s all a foundation for the real star of the show: your sample chapter(s). As the Strothman Literary Agency recommends, “If you have not published a book, a strong writing sample provides essential evidence to the editors that you have the ability to attract and engage readers.”

Use the minimum number of words to generate the maximum amount of excitement about your manuscript; choose a chapter (or two) that not only conveys the idea of your book but also leaves an agent or editor wanting more. Revise, proofread, and go over your sample with a fine-tooth comb to be sure it’s the best it can be—a misplaced comma won’t get you a rejection, but pages filled with grammar errors and spelling errors might. You’re a professional writer who is an expert in your field, so put your best work out there.

Here are some FAQs I get from writers about sample chapters: Continue reading “Sample Chapters: Step 7 of How to Write a Compelling Nonfiction Book Proposal in 10 Easy Steps”

Are E-Books and Accidental Discovery Mutually Exclusive?

I read this quote today on Jeff O’Neal’s blog Critical Linking:

Toddler in chiar with book.

There’s an aspect to traditional books which is lost in even the best electronic reader, which is Accidental Discovery: i’m reading this or that, and leave it laying about the house, and you visit and see it, or you’re perusing my book-shelves to see what i’m up to, and find something which interests you. I’m a technologist, and i worry that this casual, accidental, and as you mention, social means of discovering by talking about books is threatened by devices which need to be explicitly searched in order to find out what they hold.”

This got me thinking about how I discover books, and I realize there is some truth in this statement. I had company last weekend; the woman was reading a print copy of Gone Girl, so of course we began discussing it, and she offered to leave it for me when she finished. Our conversation led to a discussion about various authors and written dialogue;  when she said she’d never read anything by Jodi Picoult, I encouraged her to help herself to one of several books by Picoult that I have on my bookshelf.

So here are two cases of accidental discovery: we both now have the opportunity to read books we might not have “discovered” on our own.

The question is, would we have discovered these books if they had only been on our e-readers, cell phones, or tablets? I have to agree with the opening quote, that explicitly searching for something on an electronic device is a very different activity. Personally, I often ask people what they are reading on their Nooks, Kindles, or other e-readers, but I’ve never followed up with “What else do you have on your reader?”

What about you? I’d love to know how you discover books in this electronic age. And if you are an e-book reader, have you ever been queried about the books you have on it?

Happy Reading!

—Candace

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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