Happy second-to-last day of NaNoWriMo!!! Now that the month is (almost) over, take a second to celebrate your achievements, whether you got to 500 words or 50,000 words.
Great, excellent job. Now that that’s done, let’s talk about what happens next.
So many of us completely and utterly failed to hit 50,000 words this month, myself included. I reached about 20,000 new words. Am I disappointed? A little bit. Am I discouraged? Not at all. Those 20,000 words have progressed my story significantly, and I’m really excited about how it’s shaping up, and I’m not planning on stopping. If you’ve been on Twitter at all in the past month, you’ve probably seen a lot of people who usually win NaNo struggling this year. That’s why #NaNoReDo was born. It’s for those of us who didn’t quite hit our word goal in November, but want to continue full steam ahead into December. Let’s (re)do this.
Sometimes NaNo is more about getting into the habit of writing daily and building out your world than it is about the actual content of your novel. Julie, a member of the Riveted editorial board, says: “This November, I was able to work on world building by exploring the logistics and inhabitants of the fantastical realm that my protagonists discover. I also learned that an irritating but necessary part of writing, for me (for this story anyway), involves ditching the first draft completely and starting over, which is what I plan to next.”
Stick it in a Drawer.
If you were able to finish your manuscript this month, an extra congratulations to you! After such intense work in such a short period of time, think about putting your work down for a while and stepping away from it. This is what Stephen King does whenever he finishes a manuscript. After a couple of months, he comes back to it and starts the revision process. Get a little bit of space, and revisit your novel with fresh eyes in the new year.
Build a Castle.
Okay, so putting it down and working on something else just isn’t for you. I totally get that. Come December, start revising! As Shannon Hale said, take the sand you shoveled into your sandbox in and start making it into castles. Set a realistic goal for revising and aim to have a second draft of the manuscript done by that date. You can always go back and revise again.
Maybe you don’t need to spend a lot of time revising, and you’re pretty happy with the state your manuscript is in. If that’s the case, think about sharing it with a few trusted friends. If you don’t have any writerly friends you want to get feedback from, think about joining a writer’s group! Your school might have one (and if not, form one! There are probably tons of writers at your school that wish there was a writing group, too). If you’re out of school, look at meet up groups or reach out to people in the NaNo community. Odds are, they’ll want to workshop their stories too, and you can learn a lot from each other. If all else fails, there are tons of great writing workshops you can join for professional feedback on y our work (though they can get expensive).
When you have a manuscript you’re totally and completely happy with that you want to publish, start thinking about querying agents. You can follow #MSWL (manuscript wish list) on Twitter to find agents looking for manuscripts similar to yours. Each agent/agency has a different querying process, so make sure you take the time to give them what they want. The first step is finding agents who want work similar to yours. Twitter is a great resource for this, as is looking at the acknowledgements in books similar to yours. Authors will usually thank their agents, so this is a great tool for finding agents that might be interested in your work. After you have your list, learn what each agent wants in a query. (Do they want the first chapter? The first chapter and an outline of the rest of the book? The first five chapters?) Then you can start writing your query letter. Think of your query as a cover letter when applying for a job. You wouldn’t use the same generic cover letter for every job. To give yourself the best shot, make it specific and personalized to each agent you’re querying and make sure your grammar is impeccable! Then, send it off, put it from your mind, and start working on your next project.
What are your next steps for your novel? Have anything you’ve learned over the past month? We want to hear about your NaNo experience. Let us know in the comments! And no matter what goal you hit, excellent job and thanks for being with us this month!