You completed NaNoWriMo! (That’s National Novel Writing Month for those of you who aren’t tuned in to the #writingcommunity, and it’s taken place every November for the past 20 years over at www.nanowrimo.org.)
It takes a huge amount of commitment to churn out 50,000 words in less than 30 days. You’re awesome for embarking on this journey and even more amazing if you succeeded at it. After all, a lot of writers would cringe at the very thought. But not you! Now, you’ve got a whole first draft in your hands, and you just can’t wait to share it with the world.
So, what comes next…?
Believe it or not, now is NOT the time to query agents or publishers
I know, I know, the excitement of finishing a first draft can cause impatience to come creeping in, but you must resist the temptation of submitting your NaNoWriMo novel to agents and publishers just yet. In fact, forget the idea of submitting it anytime this year—your manuscript is not ready!
Every professional author knows that “the end” is only the beginning. A first draft is by no means a finished product, and right now, there’s still so much you need to do to give your manuscript its best chance at standing out from the slew of other novels stacking up on your chosen agent’s slush pile over the next few weeks.
Even if you’re feeling the pressure to just do it from your other writer friends, you need to be patient. When it comes to publishing (and life in general, if we want to be philosophical about it), you shouldn’t need to rush into anything you’re really serious about.
And I know you’re serious about this book.
First up, research your genre
You’ve spent the past 30 days working on your novel, so you should have a pretty clear idea of which genre it falls into by now and who its intended audience is. Next, you’ve got to do your research and figure out if 50,000 words is a good size for that genre.
In many cases, especially if you’re writing adult fiction, 50,000 words falls short of the expected word count, so you might need to add more to your novel to keep in line with industry expectations. A drastically low word count is enough to put a literary agent off before they’ve even read your sample pages.
Other things you’ll need to consider include the themes, style, and tone of your novel as well as paying attention to any other titles already out there that sound a bit too similar to your concept. It’s your job to make it as easy as possible for agents and publishers to place your book in the market, and it’s always best to avoid stepping on the toes of another writer’s original idea.
Why not try reading similar books in the same genre?
It’s great to get some distance from your manuscript after you finish writing a first draft. I wrote about the benefits of doing this in a recent blog post, which you can read now by clicking here. While you’re taking a break from your manuscript, try to read other books in the same genre, particularly those with similar themes to yours.
There are lots of benefits to doing this. You’ll be able to examine the structure of published novels and take away some fresh ideas to apply to your own. It will help you to “forget” your own narrative voice for a while, so that when you eventually return to your manuscript to start revisions, you’ll be writing with a clear perspective.
That’s not to mention, reading other books in the same genre can help you to create a list of comparison titles you can later use in your pitches to agents and publishers.
Speaking of agents and publishers…
Give yourself plenty of time to find agents who represent your genre before you send your first submission out.
It’s important to submit your novel to agents who are seeking manuscripts exactly like yours, rather than sending out a general submission to those who have no similar titles on their lists.
You can find contact details for agents and publishers by using resources such as the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, Writer’s Market, or even conduct your own research into the sort of titles an agent is currently seeking through websites such as www.manuscriptwishlist.com.
Be prepared to rewrite…a lot
When you eventually dive back in to revise your manuscript, be open to the possibility of new ideas and don’t be afraid to rewrite those tricky areas you might’ve rushed through during November. Take on board the advice of critique partners and beta readers during this time and apply any changes they suggest with an open mind. Your story will grow stronger with each revision.
And you will need to revise this manuscript.
Let’s not forget, you’ve already exercised enormous self-discipline by writing 50,000 words in a month, so take the time to celebrate your achievement and revel in the fact you’re one step closer to publication. But don’t lose sight of the end goal. You need to reach inward now and use that same self-discipline to guide you through rewrites, edits, and the process of preparing to submit your manuscript to agents and publishers.
NaNoWriMo might have been a race against the clock, but now is the time for you s-l-o-w down and give your novel the time and attention it needs. Only you can put the work in to transform your first draft into a submission-ready manuscript.
I know you can do this!
Thinking of self-publishing?
If you’re planning to self-publish your novel, you’ll need to find an editor before putting it out into the world. I offer affordable book editing services to self-publishing authors, including developmental editing, copy editing, and proofreading. Please click here to view my pricing, or click here to read feedback from some of the authors I’ve worked with.
I love chatting with new authors and I’m always happy to discuss your manuscript! If you’d like to find out my availability for the New Year, please get in touch today by using the contact form available on this website, or send an email direct to my inbox at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All images in this post were sourced from www.unsplash.com.