Author Etiquette: Hold that Novel!

by Jennifer 1. December 2015 12:36

I’ve enjoyed watching many of my writer friends post updates on their NaNo progress this month. It’s exciting to know that new novels are being written and maybe in the future I’ll be able to read them. However, I don’t want to read them too soon.

 

For those that don’t know what I’m talking about, November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWrMo) or NaNo for short. It’s 30 days of word madness as writers keep a grueling pace of about 1,700 to 1,500 words a day to produce a 50,000 word novel. There is a website dedicated to this event and in some cities write ins and other social events to encourage writers to do what they do best. (And there’s even a kid’s version of the challenge, too!)

 

Thousands of people a year all over the world sign up for this event. Some authors blow the word count out of the water while others don’t quite make the proposed count. Whether you make it or not, there’s lots of encouragement, great advice from top authors and lots of fun.

 

But as the month winds down, and many authors proclaim they’ve won this year, seasoned authors, agents and book publishers know the hardest part is about to begin.

 

While NaNo encourages writers to BINFOK (Butt In Chair Fingers On Keyboard) and in most cases forget about everything you’ve learned about writing a proper story. The focus of NaNo isn’t to write an immediately publishable story, instead it’s intention is to get a draft or at least most of one on the page.

 

Some authors forget that.

 

Riding on the rush of completing 50,000 words in only 30 days, some authors do a quick editing pass on the novel and then begin to shop the story around. While some editors don’t take submissions during the holidays many others are open and I suspect there’s always an influx of submissions around December. Most of which are given a rejection.

 

Very few authors write cleanly on a first draft, especially on a novel. Even with a detailed outline and all of the research done beforehand, there are often glaring errors in a brand new novel. Characters might be flat. The plot line might be weak. Sometimes you have an unexpected character that demands a spotlight. These and many other things create a mess that has to be straightened out before even beta readers should read the story.

 

The biggest issue with NaNo is in order to get that 50,000 word story finished, most authors need to turn off the Inner Editor. An Inner Editor is that little voice that insists that we correct all of the imperfections that happen in a first draft. Many times it’s difficult to turn that voice off and some writers spend unnecessary time going over and over a single chapter. But NaNo encourages you put a temporary gag on that voice and not listen to it for a couple of weeks. The results can be interesting to say the least.

 

Sending in manuscripts that have been hurried through the editing process doesn’t make you look professional. It is possible to receive a revise and resubmit but not likely unless you’ve given your NaNo project a good editing.

 

So to increase your chances of getting your NaNo project published, here’s a few steps to increase your chances.

 

Set it aside

First, set the novel aside for at least a few weeks. This allows you to distance yourself from the rush of a completed project. During this set aside time, it is important for you to write something elsea short story, an outline, the chapter of a different novelto help cleanse your mind of your NaNo novel. You will need that distance.

 

Read it through

Before you dive into editing, read your novel. This gives you a “whole picture” view of the story. It’s easier to see where your plot arc begins to fail or where you accidentally rename your main character. Make notes of things you notice so you know what to work on during the editing phase.

 

Edit, edit, and then edit again

Using your notes on the read through, begin to revise your story. Don’t worry if you scrap out chapters or completely rewrite most of the book. That’s actually normal. First drafts are where you put all the ideas you want onto the page. Your editing drafts are where those ideas all come together. Once you are done with a first pass, go back and check for spelling errors, misused words, and passive voice. Then go over it again, tightening up the prose.

 

Beta time

Through your eyes, every story is the best ever, but that’s because your mind plays tricks on you. All of those great ideas you thought you put on the page might be glossed over or miscommunicated through word choices. To have a better idea of how other readers will respond to your story, have some people (writers and readers) who are willing to read through your book and make suggestions. You might find that there’s confusion about your character’s past or that the ending seems weak. You might even find some unintended theme in your work that your beta readers pick up on.

Oh and while your story is being read by beta readers, start working on another story or even your synopsis. That way you’ll have a head start on things later.

 

Revise again

Yep that’s right. You get to revise that story again. Taking suggestions from your beta readers, you might have to do more revisions. Depending on the issues they pick up, you might need more work on some sub-plots or characterizations that need attention. But you don’t have to change everything even if a beta reader makes a suggestion. Sometimes a suggestion will go against the direction you want the story to take.

 

One last pass

Before you send your novel off, take the time to give it one last pass. You know, just incase your file didn’t save the changes you made or you make a glaring error on page one. Also make sure your manuscript is formatted properly. It’s the biggest reason for most rejections.

 

Once you have given your novel several editing passes, had it read by a select group and edited again, your novel is ready for submission. That is if you have the summary, synopsis and agent and publisher wish list ready.

 

Good luck!

~The Shadow Minion

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