Whether you won NaNoWriMo 2018 or finished your first draft of another work, what’s the next step toward publication?
Renee Frey, CMO Authors 4 Authors Publishing
First of all, if you have written an entire novel, CONGRATULATIONS! You should be proud of your accomplishment. I want to offer a special shout-out to my NaNoWriMo winners—50,000 words in 30 days is no mean feat! But now that the first draft is done, you might be wondering, what comes next? Let’s explore that in today’s blog post!
Writing is Just the Beginning
I’m sure it’s the last thing you want to hear, but writing this first draft—this long and tedious labor you just finished? It’s step one. That’s right: step ONE.
You may think you don’t need editing, that this work is perfect, and you don’t want to change a thing.
I don’t mean to upset or insult you, but as a publisher, I’ve seen unedited manuscripts. They usually have a great premise (just as I’m sure your story is great!) and some good points, but overall they feel unpolished, unprofessional, have continuity and spelling and grammar errors, and just aren’t ready for publishing.
As a personal confession, I was one of those people. The ones you hated in college, who would start the term paper the day before it was due, type it up, not even run spell check, and ace it. Yup. That was me as an undergrad. Twenty pages, no grammar or spelling errors.
And then I wrote a 50,000 word piece. Which was about three to four times as long as those papers. And let me tell you, there were issues all over the place. I’m still editing that piece.
So needing edits doesn’t mean your story isn’t good, and it doesn’t mean you aren’t a good writer—it means that your piece is a first draft and needs work to become the best it can be. And if you want the time you’ve already invested into writing to mean something, you should commit to making those edits.
But I Want to Publish Now!
If anyone reading this submits a first draft of a manuscript to a new agent or publisher, and it gets accepted, please let me know. Until then, believe me, it’s better to wait.
When I reach out to authors who obviously sent in a first draft and suggest edits, to a T, they almost all tell me they don’t want to change a thing. The impression that leaves me? Even if they were Hemingway, I would not want to work with them.
As an author, you write the story inside you, which you NEED to do. Great. As a publisher, I want to publish the story that sells, that appeals to the largest audience possible. That means there will be a few changes. A good editor will work with you, so that the spirit and meat of your story stay the same, while overhauling the method in how that story is expressed to improve it.
Just as you would (hopefully) not go to a job interview without preparing yourself, such as choosing proper attire and printing extra copies of resumes, don’t send your book in for its job interview without doing the same. Why?
BECAUSE FIRST IMPRESSIONS MATTER.
Trust me, you don’t want any agent or publisher’s first impression of you to be that you are uncooperative, unprofessional, lazy, unpolished, or poor at your craft. We can tell if someone has edited their story or not.
What is the MINIMUM Needed to Submit?
Please, if you only take away one thing from this blog post, proofread your work. Running spell check isn’t enough. Find and correct typos and verb tenses. Have others read your work, or read it yourself aloud, or read it backward. Find all those issues and fix them.
Ideally, you should work with a critique group to identify weak spots in the manuscript, from individual sentences to character arcs, make note of them, and with editing, correct them.
THEN for the love of everything, PROOFREAD YOUR WORK.
What Are the Next Steps?
Lucky for you, as part of wrapping up NaNoWriMo 2018, we’re hosting a series of blogs describing how to move your manuscript from first draft to published. Here are a couple of the topics we’re going to explore:
Editing is going through a manuscript and fixing issues. An edit can be in-depth, such as line edits, or can be a large, overarching view of the whole. You may need multiple rounds of edits, and before finalizing anything, you should always proofread it.
As Velma Kelly said, you can’t do it alone. A good critique group helps you pinpoint those areas that need work in your manuscript. As with editing, a critique group can look at a chapter closely, or alpha/beta read the work as a whole and offer a big picture feedback.
Once your manuscript is ready, you have to make decisions about how you want to go about publishing it. Options vary from doing everything yourself (self-publishing) to small press publishers (that’s us!) to the “Big 5” publishing houses that, until recently, handled just about all publishing business in the US.
Seem Like a Lot?
It is! So my first suggestion: take a break from your manuscript. Walk away, breathe, catch up on holiday shopping, and make the commitment to yourself to get back to it next week. That way, you can clear your brain and come back to the piece with a clear head. You can also read the post next week about editing, so you can have some idea of where to start.
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