I Wrote a Novel, Now What?
You wrote a novel! In a month! Congratulations on this epic creative accomplishment.
Now, you may be wondering, what should I do with it?
If you’re reading this on December 5, I say, “Nothing.” At least, not yet. Like a record-breaking triathlete or a medal-winning Olympian, your well-exercised brain needs an ice bath and a long nap. Maybe a submarine sandwich, too. With extra cheese. You’ve earned it!
No doubt there’s also an Everest-sized mountain of laundry that needs tending to, some correspondence to catch up on, and a pet or a friend or a spouse that could use a pat on the head and a hug or two.
If you’re coming to this page after both the mental massage and prolonged celebration have concluded, then you’re ready! The “I Wrote a Novel, Now What?” page is your one-stop shop for ideas and suggestions about this next chapter in the journey of your November novel.
Winner Offer Codes
More NaNoWriMo Goodness
Next up on our roller coaster of creative adventures:
In January and February of 2013, we’ll keep asking “Now What?” as we support the revision and publishing process with pep talks, advice articles, webinars, and live chats. It’s an extension of our anything-goes, marmot-infused noveling philosophy, with the added aim of getting your finished product into the world. Check the landing page for full details.
Then, in April and July of 2013, you can take part in Camp NaNoWriMo, a camp-themed version of the NaNoWriMo novel-in-a-month challenge. You can log in to campnanowrimo.org at any time using your NaNoWriMo username and password to participate in the April or July session. Or take part in both! Either way, be sure to bring your virtual tent, imaginary bug spray, and digital canoe.
Writing Communities for December and Beyond!
Even though November is over, our forums remain active year-round, with a wide array of resources for the researching and revising writer. Be sure to visit the December and Beyond forums for myriad conversations dedicated to the next chapter of your noveling journey, including Critiques, Feedback, and Novel Swaps and Novel Draft Aftercare. Wrimos also keep the writing conversation going in the Genre Lounges, and discovering new novel-friendly tools and hangouts in the Helpful Resources and Sites forum.
Sponsor Scribophile also offers a robust year-round community of like-minded writers on a website where you can recieve feedback on your writing and learn more about the publication process. Scribophile features writers from all genres, and writers who want to meet people in the same field can form groups. Posting and feedback are controlled by a “karma point” system that is designed to encourage detailed, thorough, and thoughtful critique.
Writing Contests and NaNoWriMo-Style Events
The writing and accomplishment doesn’t have to end on November 30! Check our list of helpful links for NaNoWriMo-style events on the horizon, as well as contests you can enter in the coming year!
Revision Advice from Published Wrimos
This year we interviewed many a Published Wrimo, and asked them about their approaches to revising their NaNo-novels. See what they had to say:
I felt instinctively Crusher was solid and worked the way I’d wanted it to, and I was delighted I’d written it, but I wasn’t going to go around telling everyone it was good enough to publish. I kind of hoped it was, and planned to sit down in March, reread it and revise it, then maybe self-publish it as an ebook. But events overtook me. My wife’s publisher got hold of a copy via my agent, and they felt it was pretty much ready to go, and I certainly wasn’t going to argue.
There weren’t many big fixes to be made, although my first proofreader pointed out that the way time passed didn’t work—the way shops and schools and government offices were operating day after day. I had written ten weekdays in a row, with no weekends. That fix took some figuring out.
Also challenging to deal with were the clearances for the poetry and lyrics I had copiously quoted in the script. I knew quoting copyright stuff could be a problem, but I thought it didn’t matter because Crusher would probably never see the light of day. (The publisher, if you get one, won’t cover you if you breach anyone’s copyright—it’s your problem, not theirs.) Fortunately, once I had tracked them down, the rights holders were very helpful and generous.
- Write every day during NaNoWriMo, if at all possible. The days that I started out ‘behind’ (and they happened during that month, believe me) were tough days.
- When you stop for the day, know where you’re going tomorrow. Write those next couple of lines or a brief chapter summary. It helps eliminate the ‘staring at a blank screen or paper’ syndrome.
- Honestly, and this is hard for me to do myself, resist the urge to edit until you’ve got the thing out of your brain and onto the stone tablet, paper, or screen. I’ll wager that many books don’t ever get written because an author’s overzealous internal editor jumped into the process too soon.
- Find people you trust to give you feedback: whether they be NaNo friends, or a local writing group. I found online friends at a nonprofit Jane Austen website who did this for me. They gave me invaluable feedback because most of them have no agenda besides reading good material.
- Throughout the writing process, treat your book like your child. What I mean is love it, treasure it, brag about it, but be objective and open-minded enough to discipline it—through accepting constructive criticism, editing, rewriting—without losing your long-term vision for when it’s ‘all grown up.’ This is harder than it sounds—you have to weigh others’ opinions without pride and prejudice, yet still stay true to what you want for your ‘child’ in the end.
Writing is work, but most of the time it’s fun work. Lighten up, be open to learning new things, allow yourself to make mistakes and then fix them. And keep writing—always, always, keep writing.
We asked Alan Averill, author of The Beautiful Land and winner of the Amazon Breakthrough Novelist Award, “What worked (or didn’t work) for you in the revision process? Any advice for NaNoWriMo participants?”
The biggest change I made during revision was to toss out a chunk of the novel. There were originally two other characters, as well as a bunch of other stuff going on, but I realized it was just making things unnecessarily complicated, so I cut it. And it sucked to cut it, honestly, because I really liked it, but in the end it made it a much stronger book.
The best piece of advice is the one I mentioned earlier: finish the book. That sounds really simple, but it’s one of the harder things to do. Don’t tweak. Don’t edit. Don’t go back and change things. Don’t do any of that. Just keep going forward until it’s done and then worry about all that stuff. Be the shark, man.
I absolutely must revise using pen and paper. I didn’t have my own computer when I wrote Crewel, so I thought once I did I would start revising on the laptop. Nope, give me pen and paper or give me death. I work faster and more effectively seeing it on the page. A friend also recommended changing the font when you print it so it’s fresh to your eyes and that’s actually very helpful, too.
Although I had some experience revising stories during my fanfiction years, I wasn’t prepared for how much work would go into making something truly publishable. But I’d heard all the statistics about querying agents and going on submission and how difficult it is to get published, so I knew that I didn’t want to send Cinder into the world prematurely. It was important for me to know I’d written the best book I could in order to give it a good shot at success, which in the end took almost two entire rewrites, six or seven revision rounds (including being seen by eight beta readers), and countless polishing and editing drafts.
One revision tactic that’s worked for me is, once the plot is feeling solid, say after the second or third draft, I grade the suspense level of each chapter on a scale of 1 to 10. If there are any chapters beneath a 5 or a 6, I find a way to delete them or increase the tension. I also check that 8s and 9s are followed by calmer “reaction” scenes, or even a comedic interlude, so readers don’t feel frazzled from suspense overload. And of course, if the ultimate climax scene isn’t a 10, there’s a problem.
We asked Nora Zelevansky, author of Semi-Charmed Life, “What, if any, revision regimens do you swear by?”
As a journalist, I am used to revising and condensing until a story feels tight, without a lot of wasted words, so I was more than ready to revise when that time came. I’m not sure all writers feel that way. In fact, I think they probably don’t. But, for me, although editing can get exhausting, I see stories of all kinds as puzzles—and when I get it right, I can feel it click and that’s such a great feeling. In other words, I actually like editing a lot of the time.
In terms of regimens, I don’t think I have anything specific. I just read the material over and over again until I feel like I’m losing perspective and then leave it for the day.
I’m also a huge believer in getting lots of notes from different kinds of people with varied perspectives (people who know you, people who don’t, men, women, friends from different backgrounds and places, etc). Inevitably, some themes emerge and then you know what problems you really need to solve. Some criticisms are just opinion. Others point to actual issues.
Revision is always a nightmare. At least now I can say to my class, “I worked on my novel for two years, I don’t want any complaints when I ask you to revise your work!” I added, cut, polished, and reworked On a Wing and a Dare for six months. Reviewers online loved it, but one major part didn’t work. Originally, the story was set in modern-day California, in a small town in the Sierra Nevada foothills. No one bought the notion that a herd of flying horses could live there.
Finally, I admitted to this fatal flaw. Then a reviewer mentioned that the setting sounded like her grandmother’s farm in Wales. I loved tales of the mystical remote mountains of Wales, so I switched the setting to medieval Wales. After a great deal of research, I re-titled my novel On a Wing and a Dare, and for NaNoWriMo 2010 I rewrote the entire thing and set it in a different century and different continent. In December, I polished and cut.
In early 2011, I began to think about publishers. In spite of online doubters, I had sent Wings, Waves, and Wisteria out to publishers and agents. I accumulated 20 rejections, most without any advice. The big publishing houses and agents are inundated with submissions and I despaired being able to catch their attention. I decided to aim for smaller independent publisher with On a Wing and a Dare. Briona Glen was the first publisher I sent it to, and they snapped it up!
Even More Tips from the Experts (and a Special Offer!)
Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, also known as the Book Doctors, have compiled After NaNoWriMo: Top 10 Tips, as well as offering a special December-only discount on the eBook version of their Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published. The eBook is specially priced at $2.99 for the entire month of December and includes a special new section called, “Should I Self-Publish or Should I Try to Get an Agent? Yes!,” which addresses one of the biggest questions on the mind of every author today.
Your Fellow Wrimos Recommend…
We asked November novelists just like what revision regimens they adhere to. Here’s what they suggested:
Save a “Nov 30th” copy for nostalgia and reference, then an “edit” copy with which you need to be absolutely brutal. Cut entire chapters and characters if you need to. You can always find them again in the original if you change your mind.
Coffee. Lots and Lots of coffee.
I’m rewriting the entire novel from start to finish. For me, it’s more efficient to rewrite, because I was in such a hurry to hit my 50K that I didn’t take the time to slow down and add more details. The very first page of my NaNo novel has already been expanded to four pages.
Finish the whole story first. Then, do big picture edits. Once you like the way the story flows, do smaller picture edits.
Break it up into small chunks–5 or 6 pages at a time–and read it out loud.
Hang on to what you originally loved about the story.
And just… hang on.
Don’t forget to trust your characters. They probably knew what they were doing all along.
Some Thoughts on Publishing
A growing number of NaNoWriMo authors have sold their November novels to publishers, or had them bound and distributed by print-on-demand companies. We love this, and have a robust and well-loved collection of NaNoWriMo novels displayed in a place of honor here in the office.
Publication is a great goal, no doubt about it. We’d be remiss if we didn’t also point out that there are some companies who make their living taking advantage of first-time novelists. If you’re setting out to find an agent or publisher for your NaNo-novel, please familiarize yourself with some of the traps and pitfalls that you might encounter along the way. Some good places to start with this are the Preditors and Editors list of potential scams, the resources available on Writer Beware website, as well as the Absolute Write “Bewares and Background Check” forums.
Thanks so much to everyone who participated in NaNoWriMo this year, and a very special hug to our donors, Municipal Liaisons, beta testers, and volunteers! We couldn’t have done it without you! We’ll see you next year for more seat-of-the-pants noveling fun.