So you won NaNoWriMo! What’s next?

Hi there everyone! It’s December 5th, which means I’m putting up my Hanukkah menorah and pulling out the Christmas decorations. It also means November is over…by five days! And since I know for many of you November included many, many, MANY hours of writing as you participated in National Novel Writing Month, I thought I’d do a quick primer called: So you won NaNoWriMo! What’s next??

To do this, let me share my experience, from many moons ago.

In 2010 a friend challenged me to participate in NaNoWriMo. I’d never even considered writing a book before, much less writing one over the course of a single month…and I had a two-year-old child and a full-time job…so of course I said, “Sign me up!!”

Over the next six weeks (alas, I did not “win,” so to speak, but wrote into the middle of December to accomplish about 60,000 words), I put my heart and soul onto my little pink netbook computer (not kidding). I wrote a zombie story, and I thought it was a doozie. A genre-bending delight. The best story ever.

Right? Right.

As soon as I was done with the first draft and done a cursory round of “edits” (in quotes because I barely even scratched the surface with that first round), I sent the book off to my two brothers. “Hey, look you guys!” I wrote in my cover email. “I wrote a book, and it’s great and I love it and you should read it.”

And they did. And they suggested changes. And then my husband read it and suggested more changes. And I edited. And edited. And edited.

I sent my first query letters off in July of the following year. Yes, that is a full seven months after I finished the novel for the first time. I received a slew of rejections, and then I did a complete re-write again, adding two more narrators and blending and merging timelines for the next three months.

In January of 2012, over a year after finishing the book for the first time, I queried again, and in April of 2012 I received two offers from small press publishers. In short, my book found its home…a year and a half after that initial frenzied writing.

In short: this writing shit takes time, y’all.  But it’s worth it. Because:

zombiedays333x500 noangels333x500 (2)

Worth every minute. I promise.

So, now that you’ve finished your (first? second? ninety-seventh??) novel, here’s my advice:

1. Throw a party. You wrote a book. Be proud of yourself!

2. Do your best to avoid the “Hey you guys I wrote this thing now you have to read it” syndrome. Trust me. You will want to edit and edit before you let anyone read (even your most trusted, loyal friends). Trust me. Early drafts are best put away for a couple months, then pulled out from the mothballs and edited with a clear head.

3. Edit. Edit. Edit some more. Edit until you think every word is crap, and then edit until you think each word is gold. Then edit it one more time.

4. Give it to trusted readers. People who won’t just say, “Wow, this is great,” but who will give you helpful feedback.

5. Edit one more time, based on their helpful feedback.

6. Now you’re read to move on. Do you want an agent, to publish your book the traditional route? Great, go learn how to write  a query, write it, and good luck! Same goes for small press publishers. If you need to learn how to do this, start with the Query Shark web site. Trust me on this – that place is golden. And if you want to self-publish (there’s money to be made there, and readers to be found!!), hire a great cover artist and a great freelance editor to polish your manuscript and make it shine. Trust me. You don’t think you need them but you do. I promise.

7. In the words of my five-year-old: Never give up. Never surrender. You will get rejected. Some will hurt. Some will not. But it will happen. Bad reviews will happen. But just keep on going. The only writers who don’t succeed are the ones who stop trying.

So there you have it. My brief overview of what to do with your shiny new novel. Congratulations on writing it, and I wish all you NaNoWriMo-ers of 2013 all the very best of luck!!

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