NaNoWriMo is over. Many of you are surely relieved. Some because they don’t do this sort of thing to themselves and are tired of hearing about it. Others because they did and now they want to collapse into a puddle on the floor. A few wish it would have gone on a little longer so they could get just a few more words in.
Whether you won or not is irrelevant now actually. Okay, winning is better, you get that high from achievement. But honestly, what matters is setting out to accomplish something, giving it your best, and being able to walk away knowing that you really did do everything you could to achieve that goal. As I wrote about before, things come up. I had an unexpected medical emergency in the family that I certainly didn’t account for. Well, that’s not true. I aim high to try to cover for the unexpected, but even then, I fell behind. I fell behind my personal goal, and even the (low for me) NaNo official 1667 words/day goal. That caused me stress I haven’t felt in a while and I actually don’t have anything to prove to anyone. I’m only doing this for the sake of tradition, and I question that every year. I remember writing my first book, my second – actually, ignore those, they went unrealistically smooth. I remember my third and fourth. Holy hell, there are some chapters out there that I swear I bled on every page – quite a feat considering I don’t physically write or print my books. (My little brother is a writer, he physically writes his stories. Pen and paper. I can’t believe it.) But I digress. Whether you got 70,000 words, 50,000, or 5,000; if you fought to get those words down in 30 days, there were emotions, frustration, maybe anxiety and fear. It’s not over.
So what next? In part, that depends on whether your story is done. If it isn’t – finish it. And for those who are still working on their first novel, or their first in a long time, if what you did during November worked to get you farther than you had when you were toying with the idea before, stick with it. If you need a daily goal, or to not edit, or whatever, go ahead. You can start relaxing a little later on the next novel. If you’re a writer a heart, there will be a next one. It’s an addiction. You don’t have a deadline looming, but some people need that. Some people need pressure.
After you finish, well, things get complicated then. I will usually do a quick edit, and I think that’s appropriate for any novel written this quickly. I look for spelling, obvious grammar and punctuation errors, and to make sure I have all the markers for research (or whatever) taken care of. Then the hard part: walk away. I really am serious about this. Walk away and write something else. Get this novel, this story, off your mind. Then you can come back to it for the first revision with a fresh eye. You need a fresh perspective, distance, to catch small plot holes, oversights, and inconsistencies. Yes, you’ll have other people reading to help with that too, but you don’t want them to see the rough versions. You want to show even to those close to you something good, right? Right. To that end, here’s the process (streamlined):
Write Book A, shelf it and write Book B. Shelf Book B and do first revision on Book A. If it hasn’t been enough time for you to really forget, you can skip it and write Book C. Then first revision on Book B. Write a book, second revision Book A. Then you start leapfrogging through writing and revising one book or another.
How long do you revise? “Until it’s done” is the easy answer. Obviously that oversimplifies it. On the first book, make a note of what you’re revising. Some things may be obvious, like checking consistency, plotlines, spelling, punctuation, grammar. Some things you may only learn after you give your first book to an editor. You don’t want to skip this. Even if you have a degree in English, do it at least once, and find someone with references, a history of clients and feedback, and credentials. What did they point out? Add that to your list of things to look for.
Now, what am I doing now that NaNo is over? Well, I finished at 69,700 words, but I know very well that a good portion of that is going to be cut. Why? I skipped ahead and I shouldn’t have. I chose a book for NaNo that picks up where two other books leave off. These two other books are not in the same series, and – here’s the problem – one isn’t written yet. So I’m guessing about 20,000 words can be distilled to next to nothing after I write the missing book. Then of course I have another problem. I don’t want to force people to read ten other books (not kidding) in order to know what happens in this one. Okay, we’ll say six. Same problem applies. Especially when this is a genie book and I am trying very hard to not make it a series. It’s a collection. You can read them in any order. In theory. I don’t want to change that, so I have to make this a standalone novel. That just happens to assume you’re up to date on the happenings in the lives of the characters that come from other books. That means backstory. I really hate doing that.
So what am I doing? Going back to write the novel I should have written before writing this one. Then I’ll finish this one while that one is shelved waiting for revisions. (See how that works?) This novel is shaping up to be a bigger headache than I anticipated, which says a lot. I knew it was going to be difficult before I even started to outline it. I am not going to get started on that outline.
Take the day off, relax, then get back to work. Finish that novel.