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Writing a novel is no small feat, and there is definitely something to be said about writing a first draft of a book in a month! A common misconception, however, is that a NaNoWriMo book is written in November and ready for the Barnes & Noble shelves by December 1st. If you’re serious about getting published, one month of writing is the beginning of your journey—the tip of the publishing iceberg!
So what should you do after you’ve completed a book manuscript?
1. Take a Break!
One of the first things you should do is step away from the novel for a while. This may feel counterproductive, but think of it this way: When you’re deeply immersed in your work and you’re on a deadline, it’s impossible to be objective. You may be in love with a certain passage or plot point, but that doesn’t mean it’s best for the novel as a whole.
If you take a break and think about everything but the novel for a week, or even a month, you’ll be able to return to it with fresh eyes and a little more courage to cut out unnecessary or cumbersome things.
While you’re taking a break, consider asking a critique partner to read your work or having your book edited professionally. Find someone you trust with your work and hand it over. It will feel a bit like sending your children off to their first day of school, but remember: don’t take critique personally!
2. Use your break to do some research and prepare!
Did you write a genre novel? Research the different rules and guidelines for your genre, and make edits as necessary. The same applies to mainstream fiction. NaNoWriMo novels tend to be on the short side (50,000 words), which is a bit too brief for most mainstream book publishers. But don’t fret! There is no rule against rewriting and revising.
As we have stressed in the past, it’s not a good idea to go straight to the publishers—most don’t accept un-agented manuscripts. Research literary agents first so you don’t waste time sending manuscripts that won’t get read. Many agents are looking for specific types of books and want specific types of submissions!
If research isn’t your thing, Writer’s Relief is more than happy to help.
Also, while you’re taking a break, consider starting to sketch out a killer query letter. Think “big picture” to compose your letter, and use what you learn writing your query to make your book marketable and appealing.
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3. Roll up your sleeves and revise!
Once you’ve had time to think honestly about your book’s strengths and weaknesses, you’re ready to start making improvements. Most professional writers report that the real work of writing is done in revisions, not first drafts.
I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter. James Michener
Of all the time you spend trying to publish your manuscript, prepare to devote 80-90% of your total time to the revision process. The remaining 10-20% can be budgeted for things like your first draft, research, query letters, and marketing. As a general rule of thumb, the more you revise, the better your chances of success.
Once the manuscript is in good shape with little to no grammatical or spelling errors, it’s time to start shopping it around to literary agents. (Want to have your book proofread and formatted to industry standards before you start submitting? Check out our proofreaders!)
4. Cultivate determination and patience.
Keep in mind that this process of getting a book published takes longer than one month, or even one year (learn how long it takes to get a book published). There is no shortcut if you want to get paid up front for your writing by a traditional publisher.
Some writers have been known to throw in the towel and self-publish because they want to see quick results; however, we receive countless letters from writers every month who seek our help because they are unhappy with self-publishing (generally, these writers are disappointed by low sales and little support from publishers and bookstores, etc.). We’re all for self-publishing, but we do not recommend that a writer rush into the process before he or she is ready!
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A book is a very personal, very meaningful project to take on. Tackling the “book in a month” challenge can be invigorating and inspiring, but a career writer must be prepared for the long, long road to traditional publication. As you persevere, keep this in mind:
Getting a paying book deal from a big publisher that loves your work is a reward that can make all your efforts and patience worthwhile.
Victory is Sweet!
Don’t be afraid to revise, rewrite, rework, and reconsider things well into the New Year. And above all else, be proud of yourself! Many people talk about writing a novel, but few people actually do it. To do it in one month is amazing—you’re off to an energetic start!