NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, is a lot of fun for many writers, and it can be that stepping stone that forces you to sit down and finish that draft you’ve been trying to complete for years. Whether you hit that 50,000-word milestone or not, I want to congratulate you, because—guess what??—you sat down, you got to work, and you wrote something that mattered to you.
That is worth celebrating.
But many writers might be asking themselves what to do now. Edit? Query? Write more?
The answer will be different for everyone, but here are my three universal tips for NaNoWriMo writers. (And, again, congratulations! You. Are. Awesome. Never stop writing.)
1. Do Not—and I repeat—DO NOT immediately start querying
NaNoWriMo’s goal is to get 50,000 words down. And while 50,000 words is certainly an accomplishment, it’s definitely a first draft. Querying now will only hurt you. In fact, working on a query letter at this point might not even be necessary—because a lot changes from a first draft to the final product—but that’s different for everyone. Sometimes, I like to write query letters before I write a book, just to make sure I understand my concepts and direction. This, of course, never becomes my final query or synopsis, but it helps to have a first draft of everything all at once. That way, I can see how my story changes and shapes over time.
So what are you supposed to do with a first draft?
Well, first, I normally tell writers to walk away for a little bit. Three weeks might seem like a long time, but it’ll distance you from your work…and your blind love might clear up. This is when you can see your plot holes, flat characters, and other flaws that definitely need fixing. Take word count for example. NaNoWriMo only requires a 50,000-word document, and while this is ideal for MG books, 50,000 words isn’t a great word count for an adult novel or even a YA fantasy. While 50,000 is an AMAZING accomplishment (please do not get me wrong), you’re more than likely going to receive automatic rejections because your word count is off. I know. I know. Word count isn’t everything. In fact, I think pacing matters more. But what’s the brutal truth for debuts? When your word count is off, it tells agents and publishers that you don’t know your genre or market (even if you do). Figure out your ideal word count here—and try to get it there. Don’t bank your entire career on being an exception to the rule.
3. Work on that query, synopsis, and pitch
Your novel isn’t the only piece of work needing attention. Now that you have a complete and edited draft, writing that dreaded query comes into play…and more often than not, query letters and pitches take just as long as editing does. Thankfully, there are plenty of helpful places to learn about this process, like QueryShark and the Query Critique Calendar (where you can get one-on-one help during competitions).
In the end, NaNoWriMo is a fantastic starting point, and you should be proud of your work and accomplishments. But it’s only one part of this wonderful journey. Take your time. Publishing is never a race. And make friends along the way.
Writing should be fun, after all. Try to enjoy all that comes along with it, including everything after THE END.
12 thoughts on “#MondayBlogs When NaNoWriMo is Over”
I’ve never done NaNoWriMo, but I get the feeling I’d just keep writing. Interesting idea about writing query letters first. Do you usually have to go back and rewrite because of a change to the story?
I’ve actually never done NaNoWriMo either, but I know a lot of writers who love it. I definitely rewrite my query and synopsis as I go, because so much changes. But I like to start off with summaries and such, so I know that I have a plan. Plus, when I make new versions, I can organize all the materials by that version and know how it changed as time passed. Not for everyone, of course, but it helps me.
Kind of like going back in time. Must be a fun bit of trivia to share with fans. I stick to synopses, character bios, and outlines. Query letters are still rather daunting to me.
Yeah, I think rewriting them over and over actually makes them less daunting for me. By the fourth one, I feel like I can see it getting stronger, so I end up feeling more confident about the final product in the end rather than if I just had one to look at.
In regards to the query letter, how do you decide what to put in there? I’m always struggling to squish the entire story down and keep it interesting.
I think queries are different for everyone, but from what you just said, my biggest piece of advice is to not try to fit everything in there. Just the main character, the central conflict, and the stakes.
No problem! I hope that helps!
Someday I’m going to do NaNo. But this year with 50+ combined pages of script and papers due in the month of November is not the time to do it. Seriously, November is a terrible time to write for young authors especially. Between finals and final projects, I’m always swamped.
You know, I’ve honestly never considered that, but I definitely get what you’re saying. I’ve never tried NaNo (it’s on my To-Do list for one day), so perhaps that’s why I never thought about that when I was in school. I think they have a summer NaNo, don’t they? I think it’s called Camp NaNoWriMo, but I don’t know the details. Just that a few friends have done that as well. Maybe something to look into for students who are busy in November.
That might be something to think about, depending on what my internship ends up being.
Consider this for your editing phase, a year’s worth of lessons, free. http://www.bridgetostory.com/classes/