Well, folks – the NaNoWriMo clock clicked down to zero at midnight Tuesday morning. Many writers I know will be tapping away at keyboards this whole month. Many agents and publishers will be swamped with queries by January. Are you one of those writers hoping to have your work in the hands of readers by next spring? My suggestion…WAIT on that plan!
50,000 words in 30 days! National Novel Writing Month is a time to drop everything. Drop excuses, extra projects, social life. Every free moment should be spent purging from your soul the story you’ve mulled over in your mind for so long. Pure writing, with no regard for rules or audience. You may need to start a day or two with free writing exercises. You will surely have days of writer’s block. Eventually you’ll see a path your story has chosen and every day you’ll run down that path with a goal of time and word-count.
New York Times 11/2006: “The secret to writing a novel in a month is just to do it — and it’s a good idea to accept from the start that, barring miracles, it will be very, very bad.”
This is why I say wait. Accomplished writers may already have a handle on writing, editing, employing an outside editor, and seeking agent representation. But NaNoWriMo is also a stepping stone for many novices. A hope to get themselves writing and finishing a manuscript. The mistake after that? Editing basic errors and sending your pages off in queries. This is a sure way to get your manuscript tossed on the ‘slush pile’ in any agent’s office. Publishers? They have no time for “half way there.”
If you want to continue with the NaNo challenge, December is NaNoFiMo. This, National Novel Finishing Month, seems to me a set up for disappointment and failure.
You busted out your story, now let it breathe. You’ve just spent 30 days with these words, take a break! After some time has passed, read it. Errors, plot disasters, shorted structures, inconsistencies will all come blazing into view. Don’t edit, rather take notes, scribble in the margins.
Then break up with it. Tell your story, “Hey, this has been great. But I need some space.” Try dating other stories! Regain a social life. Crawl on the floor with your kids, your dog, the UPS guy. Enjoy the holidays with family, ski with friends. Oh, you’ll hear your story calling, but don’t it pick up! Not until it is YOUR decision and you are confident you will be in control of your emotions. Then you can edit, tweek, design, reevaluate, and correct misspellings of ‘you’re’ during long late nights of the post-holiday winter.
When the snow begins to melt, poke your nose out from your manuscript. Sniff around for outside help. Get peer reviews. Hire an editor. Seek representation. A good way to get your manuscript in pristine condition is to have an editor check, and offer suggestions, on your content. A good way to determine just how far your story has progressed is to query an agent.
I’m not saying an author is incapable of going it alone. Surely there are those who write incredibly, edit impeccably, have a brilliance for promotion, a grasp of contracts, and knowledge of the in-and-outs of the publishing world. I am saying any author not in the .0001% of the previously exampled is either uber gutsy or blindly foolish to believe 30 days of writing for quantity is going to produce quality work right out of the gate. I’ve seen the January rejection letters sent to these writers, mostly novices. What a way for dreams to be dashed, hearts to be broken, and for writers to stop writing!
Well… this post just got depressing!
The challenge of 50,000 in 30 days is a wonderful way to get your words on the page. Maybe an extra 31 of self-edits will even produce a manuscript. But don’t rush the next steps. Take your time, enjoy your process, and give your best work.