If you’ve been following my Failing NaNoWriMo posts this month, you might have some idea where this is headed. Now that we’ve spent the month of November writing an average of 1,666 words a day (or not), it’s time to assess the situation and discuss what to do after NaNoWriMo.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the next steps in this crazy process. 🙂
Failing NaNoWriMo: What to Do Now (5 Easy Steps)
Ideally, we’d like to turn your NaNoWriMo manuscript into a finished novel. But before we get ahead of ourselves, we better make sure we’re ready for all of that.
If you’re like me, your NaNo work is nowhere near ready to be published, still very much in first-draft territory. However, I’ve been through this process many times, and I can honestly say I’ve grown to appreciate it every step of the way.
In other words, don’t worry. We’ll get there!
Five easy steps? Okay, we’ll do it in five. Let’s take a look.
Step 1: Finish Your Novel
I think it’s time to be honest about how NaNoWriMo went for me. Not bad, I say. Not bad. For NaNoWriMo 2022, I wrote…
Honestly, considering the state of my life right now, that’s great. Between my wife working full-time, two small children at home, and the crushing weight of the impending holiday season, it’s excellent.
However, what I have so far is nowhere near to being a completed novel. It’s rough, disorganized, and incomplete. I roughly estimate this one needs at least 70k words and, more likely closer to 80 or 90k. How do I know? I don’t, really. But, I’ve written a fair few novels at this point, some of them even published, and believe I have enough experience and understanding of my writing style to guesstimate.
Still, when you write the way I do, it’s not an exact science. Some writers are very good at the “science” part of writing, but for me, it’s better to focus on the artistic side.
The point is, before you do anything else, you need to finish the novel you’ve started writing. There may be a few who have completed 50-60k word novels finished by the end of the month, but it’s rare.
Nevertheless, once you’ve completed the first draft of your novel, it’s time to edit.
Step 2: Edit, Edit, Edit
This is the stage I dreaded most when I was first getting started. But, after going through the process several times, I’ve learned to cherish it. In many ways, the self-editing stage is where the real writing takes place, and it’s absolutely crucial.
However, before I get ahead of myself, let me clarify what I mean by “Edit, Edit, Edit.” This is the stage where you read through your manuscript, looking for inconsistencies, plot holes, and other major problems. Right now, it’s best not to worry about grammar and punctuation (don’t worry; we’ll get to that).
Often, this stage requires extensive re-writes (especially if you’re a pantser like me), and you may be surprised by the problems you find in your own work. For this reason, it’s good to take a break from your manuscript before jumping into this stage. It’s easier to catch things and be more objective after a few weeks (or months) away from your work.
Of course, if you’re eager and motivated, you can push through this stage quickly (I’ve done things both ways), but if you have the time, I suggest you take it, perhaps even signing up for a revision workshop if you’re into that sort of thing.
Step 3: Send Your Manuscript to Beta Readers for Feedback
Once you’ve worked and re-worked your manuscript as much as you can, only then should you seek feedback. I mean, you can let others read your work prior to this point, but don’t take their critique and advice too seriously until they’ve read your novel as a whole.
Following the advice of others before you’ve completed your first draft is potentially dangerous. It’s all too easy to get hung up on character details and such, drawing your attention away from finishing the most important part: the writing!
That said, the feedback you get from Beta Readers is often very helpful. Beta Readers provide an outside perspective on your work and are likely to see things that you’ve missed because you’re simply too close to the work.
Step 4: Edit, Polish, and Edit Some More
Next, with a bit of feedback and your copious notes laid out before you, it’s time to do some more editing. At this stage, your goal is to finish any rewrites you need to do and finalize the story.
As you go through your manuscript once more, you may still see things that need work and catch small inconsistencies, like a character’s name changing halfway through or the mention of a blue sky when it’s supposed to be night, things like that. But if you miss anything like that, it’s okay because a skilled editor will fix such things
However, you shouldn’t have to make any major changes at this point. Your goal is to polish your manuscript, make it as clean as you possibly can on your own, and then figure out what you’re going to do with it.
Step 5: Publish Your Novel
Finally, completed manuscript in hand, it’s time to figure out how you’re going to share your work with the world. If you’d like, you can begin submitting to agents and publishers. If you’re lucky, you may land a book deal this way, and it then becomes your publisher’s responsibility to complete the final copyediting, design the cover, and publish your book.
This is, of course, assuming someone at an agency takes the time to read your manuscript, like it, and offer you a contract.
One problem with going that route is that it takes a lot of time. After you’ve submitted your manuscript, it may take six months or more to receive responses. Then, it could be many months or a year before your book actually becomes commercially available.
For this reason (and others), many authors prefer to work with small publishers or publish their work themselves. Personally, I’ve done both. My first three novels were released through a publisher, and from there, I taught myself the ins and outs of self-publishing so that I had the freedom to publish my work how I pleased.
Since then, I have made a living working as an author, freelance editor, and content writer. And I’ve worked with many writers, helping them to develop their work and guiding them through every step of the self-publishing process, from developmental editing and proofreading to cover art and publishing.
That said, if you need help with any of the above, please don’t hesitate to reach out–and check out the services offered here at MK Editing. Honestly, we really can help, no matter what stage of the self-publishing process you’re in!
Final Excerpt From My NaNoWriMo Scribblings 2022
Alright, here we go. Below is the final scene I’m going to share from the writing I did for NaNoWriMo 2022, in which our protagonists perform some kind of seance designed to voluntarily enter a state of sleep paralysis in order to banish a demonic force. Sounds fun, right?
And despite failing NaNoWriMo 2022, it wasn’t a total loss.
Let the insanity begin…
— — —
Serena now sat on the bed, looking distantly across the room. There was a bruised spot on her forehead, fringed with blood from several shallow cuts and scrapes. On the door, where she had been banging her head all morning, there was now a stained depression.
Torri was examining her closely, stepping this way and that, looking first to one side and then the other. She did this clinically, as if Serena was a statue or some other nameless object.
Serena did not move, or even seem to notice anyone was in the room.
“We’ll have to go under for this one,” Torri said.
David was frowning. “All of us?”
“I think that’s best, yes,” Torri replied.
Riley looked from Torri to David and back again. “Go under? What do you mean?”
“We have to bring ourselves into the sleep paralysis state,” Torri said. “That’s the only way we can banish the entity. We have to meet it on its own plane of existence.”
“Jesus,” Riley said. “I don’t want to do that.”
Torri gave him a rye smile. “You have to. We need you. You’re a big part of this.”
“Come on, Ry,” David said. “Let’s saddle up.”
“If you don’t, I’m going to kill them,” Serena said suddenly.
All three of them froze, staring at her.
Somewhere distantly, a clock was ticking. Relentlessly tick-tick-ticking away.
“Ignore that,” Torri said. “We better get started.”
David had gathered three different mismatched chairs from about the house and arranged them in a rough semicircle next to the bed. They each took one, so that they could look at Serena sitting on the bed.
“Whoa,” Torri said. “Can you feel that? This won’t take long.”
Riley could hear footsteps somewhere in the house. They were searching footsteps, as if looking for something, or someone.
Torri took a piece of chalk from her box and began to draw something on the old hardwood floor. When she was done, she put the piece of chalk back and produced a small porcelain bowl. She pinched a small clump of some sort of dried herb and placed it in the bowl, which she had set on a nearby end table.
“In actuality,” she said, while she lit the bowl of herbs with a match, “these things are not really necessary. They’re old rituals, cliches even, but they often help our minds to open to what we feel is impossible. After all, it’s belief that shapes our reality, not the other way around.”
Before Riley could ask her what she meant by that, Torri began to chant over the simple square she had drawn on the floor.
Pungent smoke from the bowl began to fill the space.
She stopped and looked up. “This will be the gateway,” she said. “We’re going to confront the entity that haunts this woman and push it through here, back to whence it came.”
She looked at them and her face became very serious. “If either of you are with me when I open the gate, do not, under any circumstances, look through it. You do not want to see what’s on the other side. Our minds can’t take it. Remember that whole Nietzsche thing about staring into the abyss and it staring back? It’s like that. Just don’t do it. Okay?”
“Sure,” David said.
Torri looked at Riley. “Okay?”
“Good,” Torrie said. “Finally, we each need one of these.” She brought three small knives from out of her box and handed them each one.
Riley looked at it. It had a black handle that fit nicely in his hand, with a double-edged blade perhaps six inches in length.
“What’s this for?” he asked Torri.
“Another ceremonial item,” she said. “It’s an elemental tool of evocation.”
“Hm,” he replied, as if satisfied with Torri’s answer.
Torri cocked her head. “Now, does anyone else hear that?”
The footsteps were coming down the hall, closer and closer to the room in which they gathered.
“What is that?” Riley said, but when he looked over at Torri and his brother, both of them were slumped in their chairs, eyes open, but unmoving.
Then, he couldn’t move either. His arms were filled with lead too heavy to lift.
What’s the scariest nightmare you’ve ever had?
“Put the athame away,” said his wife’s voice. “You hear me, don’t you, Ry? It’s useless now. Put it away.”
He was sitting at a table outside of the coffee shop where he liked to go with his family. Maggie was sitting across from him, smiling radiantly, as she often did around him, except the blouse she was wearing was threadbare and stained. Mold grew along the fringes of her collar, speckled about the swooping V between her breasts.
A bite had been taken out of the danish that sat before him and his coffee cup was half empty. In one hand he held a brown napkin, in the other he held a strange-looking knife, with a black handle and a double-edged blade.
“What?” he said.
“Put it away.” Maggie said, indicating the knife.
“Right.” He set the knife down on the table and reflexively wiped his mouth with the napkin.
“You look very tired,” Maggie said. “You haven’t been sleeping nearly enough. Has something been keeping you up?”
“You’re not Maggie,” he said. “Quit playing games.”
“Of course not,” the woman who looked like his wife said. “She’s far stronger than you, and much more experienced.”
“For one thing, she’s had dealings with our allies, the Oathecs, before.”
“Oathecs? I don’t understand.”
“Of course not. Even your wife’s overly-rational sister knows more than you.”
Riley stared into the eyes of the thing before him. “What does Chloe have to do with this?”
“More than you might think,” the entity said, lifting one of its hands and…
There was grass beneath his feet. The largest tree he’d ever seen towered before him, a giant redwood, or something like it. It’s branches climbed up and up, meeting the dark sky, and, beyond that, the void of space…
David stood to his left, Torri to his right.
They were at the top of a small hill. Sloping beneath them was a field of manicured grass, stretching down to meet the trunk of the tree, and the dark space beneath.
“It’s down there,” Torri said.
“Yes,” David said. “I see it.”
All Riley could see was darkness.
Together, they began to descend the hill, and then…
The sound of his sneakers on the tiled floor was loud in the total silence. It was a place where he’d been before, although maybe only as a child, except now it was run down and abandoned. The long hallway that stretched before him was littered with debris, chunks of wallboard, and flakes of bone-colored paint. In several places, the wall looked as if something had struck it, punching holes between the skeletal framework. Afternoon light cut streams through the air, revealing lazy swirls of dust.
At the very end of the hallway, there stood a single chair, lit by a bright beam of sun from above. It was empty, but something about it, alone in this forlorn place, sent a chill down his spine.
Someone stepped through one of the doorways and into the hallway, followed by another, very large person. As they approached, Riley could see that the smaller of the two was a boy he had known in grade school. Not one of his friends, but a classmate.
The other was a very tall man with red hair he didn’t recognize.
When they reached where Riley stood, the boy said, “This is him. Can I go now?”
Without waiting for an answer, the boy turned and walked away quickly.
The tall man with the red hair looked down at Riley. “You know who I am,” he said.
Riley shook his head.
Pain lanced through Riley’s body and he staggered.
The tall man with the red hair smiled.
Just as abruptly as it had started, the pain ceased. He opened his eyes and heard someone whispering over his shoulder.
“You have to respect what we can do. We can make it so that you don’t know where you are or what you’re doing. We can make it so that you begin to question everything, to doubt yourself. We can arrange for your suicide. It’s easy, really. Are you prepared to die?”
“If you try to avoid it,” the strange voice continued, “it will find you, and it will get you.”
Riley began to turn, even though he didn’t want to. He didn’t want to see the owner of that voice, the horror that awaited him, filled with slobbering darkness and revolting jags of shadow.
“I’m done with you,” it said, and now it was the same voice he’d heard in his last nightmare. “I lost you for a while, but I found you again. Now you try to bring others into it? That will not do. Let’s end it, before this goes any further.”
A sudden weight fell on Riley’s chest, crushing the air from his body. He couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t move. He crumpled to the ground. The only thing he could feel was the grass, cold and scratchy on the back of his neck.
“You will not hurt him,” he heard someone nearby say.
“Yeah, back off, you ugly piece of shit,” came another voice – his brother.
He could just see them, standing before the swirling blackness: David and Torri.
He watched as Torri began to pull at the air, and as she did so, the pressure on Riley’s chest loosened.
The entity began to writhe, struggling against Torri’s invisible rope, trying to free itself as it was dragged inexorably towards the black gate.
“Back to the Umbra Ina with you!” Torri shouted.
“You don’t understand,” said the entity, not in fear, but in triumph, darkness whipping about an ichor maw.
With that, an explosive pressure radiated from the entity, a high-pitched squeal filled the air, and Riley knew no more.