Last week, Mark had a message to share with authors who didn’t “win” this year’s NaNoWriMo. It is an important reminder that there is no way to “lose” the NaNoWriMo challenge because you can always take what you worked on and continue building toward the book you want to create.
We wish the best of luck to those authors with incomplete manuscripts!
But today’s article is for the authors who did hit their fifty-thousand words. Plenty of authors fulfill their NaNoWriMo goals, and now they have a finished story in their hands!
So. What now? What do you do with your story? After a sprint from zero to finished in a month, you might have an impulse to rush it out as a published work. This is understandable, but we still want to share some recommendations for what you can do between finishing your NaNoWriMo story and publishing that book for the world to read.
Go Over Your NaNoWriMo Draft
We are not disparaging your book; it is a huge accomplishment to finish a novel-length story. Most people will never write that final page, and you should feel proud. You should also acknowledge that the book in your hand is a draft.
It’s very likely most of your chapters were written from beginning to end without reviewing them through a critical lens. Now that you have a finished story, you should go through it again from page one, looking for things that work and things that, in hindsight, could do with some revisions.
Some parts of your story might benefit from additional context. You might also find paragraphs or scenes that are out of place. With the knowledge of your complete story in mind, you can see opportunities to create throughlines that connect earlier moments with plot points in your climax.
It isn’t easy to critique yourself, but combing through your NaNoWriMo project can result in a more holistic reading experience once you reach your second or third draft.
Work With Your Editor
In most cases, this means finding an editor. Reviewing your own work is important, but as writers, we are prone to forming natural blind spots with our own work. A second set of professionally trained eyes can bring a level of polish you would never achieve on your own.
Working with an editor often boils down to two kinds of editing: copy editing and developmental editing. A copy editor going over your work line by line to check your spelling, grammar, and structure. This can clean up inconsistencies an author would take for granted, making the story flow better while maintaining a consistent style.
Developmental editors, or content editors, are looking at the story you wrote and determining what works and what needs improvements. Objective, experienced feedback on what story beats don’t serve your plot, what scenes drag on too long, or what character moments could be the difference between a good story and a great one.
When working with an editor, remember to be open-minded. Your story is your baby, especially after the thirty-day gauntlet of NaNoWriMo. If an editor starts recommending big changes or even big removals, it’s important to communicate without getting defensive.
If you’re looking for an editor, or want to know more about the business of editors, we had Kristen and Kristen of The Editorial Freelancers Association on as guests on Self Publishing Insiders. Be sure to check out that episode for more insights into working with editors.
Set A Release Goal
Now that NaNoWriMo is through, you’re more familiar than ever with setting and achieving goals. It’s time to set your sights on what’s next. With your finished and edited book in hand, you should start thinking about your release goals.
Some questions you might want to ask yourself include: Who is your book for? And, what’s the best way to get your book into their hands? The path you choose to get your book into your readers hands can take many forms. Do you plan on querying literary agents? Are you looking to get your book picked up by a traditional publisher, or are you planning to self-publish as an enterprising indie author? Both paths to publishing are valid, (though if you plan on self-publishing, Draft2Digital is eager to help bring your book to readers).
Here is where you might notice a shift in your thinking from creative to business— you’ll have to start marketing yourself and your work, no matter what publishing path you choose.
Rather than dropping your book on the world right away, we recommend setting a release date that gives you time to release your best work. This means making sure you have time for those things we mentioned above: revising your draft, working with your editor as well as getting the opinions of Advanced Copy Readers, and creating or commissioning book cover art to tie together your final product.
With a future release date, you can start building hype for your book in the form of promotion and marketing. Start an email list, release a reader magnet, promote your book on social media, or reach out to content creators and book reviewers who might be open to providing an early review to their followers. Get the word out early and often before your intended release. This, in turn, can mean more hype and more pre-orders to set you up for a successful launch day!
If your NaNoWriMo novel is your first published work, we are excited to welcome you to the world of publishing. Always remember that your writing career, unlike the NaNoWriMo challenge, is a marathon, not a sprint.
As you publish more books, your catalog as an author will become more enticing to readers, and you’ll start to see those readers become fans. Sometimes an author’s first book is a breakout hit, but for most authors, it’s the first step. Be proud of your achievement, but don’t rest on your laurels.
Publishing your first book is a rite of passage for an author. Once you’ve done it, you’ll realize there’s nothing stopping you from doing it again, even without the artificial urgency of NaNoWriMo.
We’re excited to see what you come up with next, whether it’s written in thirty days or not.