Today I have a guest post by my friend Julia. We met on twitter last year and as she mentions below, I watched with fascination as she – along with many of you – went through NaNoWriMo (National Writing Month). I must confess that my muse doesn’t respond well to deadlines and pressure so it’s not an activity I’ve ever done. I did try to be supportive to her LOL!
So then we were chatting recently and I asked her what the next steps might be for a NaNoWriMo novel and voila – a guest post was born!
My first draft is finished. Now what?
Veronica and I met in the whirlwind of NaNoWriMo (National Writing Month). Twitter, blogs, and writers around the world buzzed with support and advice on how to get the first 50,000 words of a first draft done. “Turn off your inner editor, and write, write, write!” was the advice of the month, and legions of writers joined the frenzy. But when November was over and the first draft was finished, the advice and support dwindled, and I discovered an editing buddy can be more useful than a writing buddy. Veronica and I have become cheerleaders for each other in the editing-focused post-NaNoWriMo, and our support for each other inspired this guest post.
If you’ve finished (or almost finished) your first draft, and you’re uncertain what step to take next, I offer you support and encouragement. Below is a guideline to take your manuscript from a rough first draft on your computer to a treasured story in the hearts of readers.
Remember a first draft is only the FIRST draft: First implies more to follow — a second, a third, maybe even a fourth or twentieth draft. You need to edit your work, even if you are going to send it to a professional editor. I encourage you to find a friend like Veronica who isn’t afraid to ask, “How is the editing going?” (VS sez Julia keeps me going too, on weekends especially when I’m tempted to just play on twitter all day!)
Not sure how to begin editing your own work?
-Take a week to a few weeks away from your manuscript to help you gain objectivity.
-Before you begin reading, use the search/find function of your word processor to discover “lazy” words you overuse and weed them out. Lazy words are words we can remove from a sentence without changing the meaning; examples include (but are not limited to) that, very, nearly, just, hardly and only.
-When you read your manuscript, be aware of structural issues such as the flow and pacing of the story, character development, and consistency.
-If possible, find a beta-reader – a writer who is not related to you – to help you find the flaws in your story so you can fix them.
Every writer has weak areas. Editing is not about changing the heart of the story; it is about communicating the heart in a clear, engaging and entertaining way.
Decide how you want to publish: Self-publish? Small press that specializes in ebooks? Small press that prints books? Major publisher? The modern publishing industry offers many options. Experts in the fields disagree on which method is better. In my opinion, your choice should depend on what your book is about, who your audience is, and your own personality and preferences.
Consider hiring a professional editor: Whether you are self-publishing or aiming to get published with a major publishing house, the services of a professional editor can increase your chances of success. In the literary world, two types of editing are of most benefit to new authors: content editing (sometimes called developmental editing) and copy editing (sometimes called line editing, proofreading, etc). Generally speaking, copy editors correct grammar mistakes, and content editors catch boring first chapters, protagonists who come across as jerks, etc, and help you find solutions.
If you self-publish, people may buy your first book, but you are unlikely to gain a following unless your work is edited and professional. In other words, if you are self-publishing you need to hire an editor. At the very least, hire an editor to check grammar mistakes, but I recommend a freelance content editor. Publishing houses have an arsenal of on-staff or freelance content editors who they assign to work with their writers. Why should you give your work less consideration?
Publishers have no shortage of potential books to choose from. Agents want something they can sell, not something they have to edit, so if you’re an unknown novelist, struggling to get published or noticed by an agent, an editor may give you the edge you need.
Put yourself out there (Submit your work): Once you’ve completed this list, don’t let your work sit. Take action. If you are self-publishing, act as a reputable publisher would and invest in professional cover art, and publish. If you want to be noticed by a publishing house, find out if it accepts queries directly or requires you go through an agent, then submit your work accordingly, and …
Start your second book! No need to put all your eggs in one basket when you can make another one that might be better.
“Julia’s bio: Writer. Freelance Editor. Best ever single-mother — yes, my daughter said that! Beloved bride-to-be. Maker of dreams. Lover of little moments.”
VS sez Julia offered: If you’re at the stage where you might need some editing support you can get in touch with her before the end of February, mention this guest post, and she’ll give you 40% off her services on one manuscript up to 100,000 words. She can provide a sample edit on your first chapter (up to 5,000) words for free to help you decide if her services and editing style would be right to help your art shine.
Email her through the contact form on her website or chat with her on Twitter (her handle is JuliaLizzBeth). She loves answering questions!
So please share with us, what have you done with your NaNoWriMo book since November ended?