Hi, SEers! Mae here. It turns out I have one more NaNoWriMo post to share. Congratulations to all who participated, and a special cyber cheer to those who “won.” No matter how many words you added in November, I applaud you for taking on the challenge and shining a spotlight on the writing community. I ended the month with a smidgen over 35K, progress I’m more than happy with.
Now, it’s December. All the fanfare and fuss of writing at light-speed is over, but now it’s time to begin clean-up. Even if you push this off past the holidays (or later) eventually you’re going to need to take a hard look at your manuscript. If you didn’t participate, you can apply these tips to any WIP in your arsenal.
ADD WORD COUNT
If you started your WIP from scratch, 50K is too short for many genres. It works for some YA, some sub-genre romance, and some westerns. If you’re writing mysteries, thrillers, suspense, horror, crime, mainstream romance, historical, sci-fi or fantasy you’re going to need at least another 20K to 50K depending on the genre. I stick with mystery and suspense which falls between 70K and 90K. My target word count for any manuscript is always roughly 80K.
You’ve just spent thirty days (or longer) immersed in your WIP—vomiting daily word counts onto the computer screen, living with your characters, dreaming about your characters, having scenes revolve in your head almost 24/7. It’s time to give yourself a break. Distance yourself for at least a week or longer. Two is a good time frame, but don’t lose the momentum you gained from NaNoWriMo. Do writing prompts, brainstorm other ideas, keep your creativity flowing.
My first experience with NaNoWriMo produced A Thousand Yesteryears. I wrote just over 50K, then didn’t touch the manuscript again until June of the following year when I added another 30K to reach the end. That’s a long time to let a WIP rest (I worked on other projects in between). Most writers tackle their NaNo projects again in December, but whenever you return to your manuscript there are several things you’re going to want to do.
After giving yourself space, it’s time to reread your WIP from start to finish. Make notes as you go, looking for plot holes or story threads that lead nowhere. Flesh out scenes that are too sparse while cutting those that don’t propel the plot and act as filler. Those items you didn’t have time to research during NaNo? Now’s the time to double check your facts, add details, and make sure all dots connect and are plausible.
The first of many edits. I’m a writer who normally—NaNo aside—polishes and edits each scene as I write. I end up with a pretty clean manuscript by the time I reach the end, but even then, I edit, polish, edit, and polish again. With a NaNo manuscript, I have a lot more polishing to undertake. The next stage is to share your ms with beta readers or critique partners, but before you do, make your work as clean as you can for them.
BETA / CRITIQUE STAGE
Time to share. I work with a critique partners, so I share a chapter at a time, fixing any issues based on their feedback, rather than sending the whole manuscript at once. It’s easier on me to correct problems, and easier for them with turnaround time. Many writers prefer to send the entire manuscript to beta readers. There is no right or wrong way but having another set of eyes—or several—on your manuscript is beneficial for flushing out potential glitches.
Yes, you polished before, but it’s time to do it again. Based on the information you received from your CPs or beta readers, you may need to make changes. Regardless, go through your manuscript, proofing and tightening. Let it rest, then do it again. Be meticulous. Make it as flawless as possible.
Time to decide what to do with your masterpiece. If you’re going to indie publish, I recommend hiring a professional editor before sending your baby into the world. Other options are to submit queries to small online publishing houses or seek an agent. If you choose either of these, you’re going to need patience while you wait for replies, which usually run several months out. Make use of that time by beginning another project. Above all else, keep writing. It’s what we do!
Even if you didn’t participate in NaNoWriMo, I hope you found this post helpful. Are the stages I outlined above, ones you generally use when you’re wrapping up a WIP? I’m going to be without internet access a good portion of the day today, but my Story Empire colleagues will be replying to comments when I’m unable—so please share your thoughts. 🙂
Ready, set, go!