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You’ve finished NaNoWriMo!
Or perhaps not — that is okay!
You have more words than you did at the beginning of November. Congratulations!
Or perhaps you are one of the ones who will do February or June Writing Month. If so, bookmark this post for future use.
Or, you are creating your work-in-progress? This post may be of particular interest to you.
The first thing to do is to take a deep breath, maybe take an Epsom salt bath, massage your wrists, roll out those shoulders, and maybe let out a primordial scream into the darkness. You know, whatever helps you relax.
Finish, Celebrate, Plan
Now, let’s say you haven’t quite finished— Give yourself some time to relax, and brainstorm the ways you’re going to now fit writing into your life. For me, having a daily word goal of 1667 is great for short periods, but really what I need is time boxes to get the work down. I usually tell myself that I can shut myself away for at least twenty minutes a day writing until I finish, with the only rule being I write. Even if I need to struggle through something and get really meta in the writing process, I know that will come out later. Don’t forget to reward yourself, maybe with a day off, that fancy mocha you never spring for, or chocolate.
So, whether you NaNoWriMo or not, if you are writing, be sure to reward yourself!
Edit, Space, Edit
Once you’ve finished your novel on your new schedule (or maybe you skipped that last paragraph because you’re so gosh darn prolific), the next stage will be editing. You know yourself better than I do, so if you need space from your writing, take that space.
Before you hide it away though, consider taking the time to write what you know to be true about it now. Note down what parts mean a lot to you that you don’t want to change later, explain to yourself where you know you’ve decided you want to expand things, and then make a quick list of items that you know will need to be fixed (for me, I always need to fix the fact that my characters have very little interiority, so the reader doesn’t know why they do what they do.
My other big struggle is setting, (everyone just exists in an empty void where their heads can talk). Leave yourself these notes and then get some space by taking Stephen King’s advice and hiding your work in a drawer or somewhere out of sight for at least six weeks.
Meanwhile, start conjuring your next writing creation.
David’s Self-Editing “Trick” — He shares it with you, dear Chanticleerians.
When the six-plus-weeks of letting your work “rise or proof” in a drawer somewhere is up, David offers this advice:
For the next editing step, I treat myself like I would any other editorial client. I take the first ten pages of my work, and then skip ahead to the middle and grab ten pages from there. For many of us, the start and end of the book already appear clearly in our mind, and for something like NaNoWriMo, we start out fresh and excited to get the job done. So you can notice what you do well in your first ten pages, and if anything pops up that you know you need to fix, write those down as well. Then, in the section from the middle of your book, look at what parts that worked well in the beginning are still there, and what maybe fell out as the story weighed itself down in the middle of the month, heavy from the expectations and reaching that week three or week four point of exhaustion.
Having taken notes one what worked and didn’t work at the beginning and middle, I write myself a letter explaining what I should watch out for as I move through my own work, and how I recommend shoring up the strengths and how I can correct any weak points. For me, again, this usually means taking time to give every setting and character a unique description, and then to make sure that I use my strengths, like dialogue, especially if I notice there’s a section where I skipped over dialogue in favor of narrative description.
Then, I connect this letter with the note I left for myself when the story was still fresh in my mind, and I buckle down and do my first read through and selection of edits.
Manuscript Overview or Peer Review, Rewrite, Repeat
Now it’s time to get some other eyes on your work. This may be the time to have a manuscript overview if you are serious about publishing your work. Do this before you get into editing (line or copy editing). Click here if you would like to read more about this process:
If you are undecided about whether or not to publish your work-in-progress, this might be a good time to bring in a few Beta Readers for their general impressions—how do they see the structure of the story? What do they think of my character development? And what do they see as the heart of the story? That last question nets me some really interesting answers that help me better understand the themes of the story that maybe weren’t clear to me initially. Then I compile these notes into another letter of sorts to myself, and go through the entire book again. I would recommend doing this one more time, and this time asking for more specific feedback on theme, plot, characterization, dialogue, structure, world building (as applicable), and then just anything that just stands out as a hold up for the reader.
Remember, when receiving peer review or manuscript overview, you are the author and no one else can force you to make changes. Even if a suggestion really bothers you and gets under your skin, reframing it as a question of why the reviewer gave you that feedback can always help. For example if someone hates your character, Beth, because “she just doesn’t seem real.” Ask yourself what you’ve done to develop Beth as a character. Read her dialogue aloud. Figure out why you love Beth (even if she’s actually awful—which is often a reason we back away from loving our bad characters), and put that love into her character. She can still be unsympathetic, but at least now she’ll draw your reader in.
What should you do if you are not wanting to proceed with your w-i-p. Our suggestion here at Chanticleer is to print it and file it away. Also, save it digitally in at least two other places such as your computer or a USB stick plus some place off premise such as in the “cloud.” Never throw any writing away…just squirrel it away because you never know…
Let’s get Professional – You’ve Decided that You Want to Publish Your Work-In-Progress
At this point, if you still want to move forward with your story, which I’m imaging is quite good, it’s time to bring in a professional. Chanticleer can provide you with a Manuscript Overview, which is a great first step, and then you can work on finding an editor who understands your vision and whose style matches with the way you respond to feedback. Go through it with your editor, and then proceed with the editorial and cover design process. Remember, your cover has the greatest influence on whether or not a potential reader will choose your book to to consider.
Line editing, copy editing (you can save $$ by creating and developing your own Style Guide and Story Bible).
SERIES or Not to Series
In the process that you’ve been going through with your Work-In-Progress (w-i-p), are you considering turning it into a series? Indie Booksellers, Entertainment Producers, Literary Agents, etc. and especially READERS, enjoy book series.
Do you need to reconsider your story structure in order to sustain a book series?
You may want to read this blogpost by mystery series award-winning author Wendy Delaney. https://www.chantireviews.com/2020/02/29/writing-a-series-primer-by-award-winning-author-wendy-delaney-a-chanticleer-writers-toolbox-article/
This, for many people is seen as the big goal, and it deserves an article all on its own for the different facets of self-publishing versus traditional publishing, how to market, what to do about cover design, contests, book reviews, and so much more. At this point, the important thing to realize is that you are entering a period of extraordinary fine-tuning and a different kind of work with your book, from making it come to life to putting it in people’s hands. Good luck!
On a final note, don’t forget about the COVER!
THE COVER – The Number One Marketing Tool to Sell More Books – Don’t Sell Yourself Short. Start on your cover design as soon as you are serious that you want to publish your story then start working on the cover and the brand (Stories are products!)