The Next Steps: What to Do with Your NaNoWriMo Manuscript
It’s the first week of December. For writers, that means the end of NaNoWriMo. If you’re a writer who’s undertaken the humungous task of writing a 50k+ word manuscript, then congratulations! You’ve done a fabulous job, and you deserve a long, long winter nap.
No matter what your goals may have been, for doing NaNoWriMo, it wouldn’t surprising if you had aspirations to see it on bookshelves. Maybe to get it published was your goal from Day 1 or something you may have grown into as the month passed by. If either is the case, stick around, because here is where we will answer the question, “What’s next?”
Step 1: Put your book away (for a short while).
That’s right. You heard us. It’s time to give your manuscript some breathing space.
If you’re serious about getting your book published, you must come to terms with the idea that this is only the first draft (maybe even draft zero). Belting out tens of thousands of words doesn’t produce a masterpiece, and there’s still a lot to be done.
With that in mind, take a break. Go on a holiday, work on something else, immerse yourself in a new hobby. What you do is up to you, but the idea here is to let the story settle in you before you can come back to it. This break should clear your head so that you can review your manuscript objectively
Step 2: Make a post-NaNoWriMo plan.
There’s going to be loads of chaos in the process of publication. So make a plan that eases your journey to this destination. Make a list of all the things you need to do:
- Get your manuscript in order.
- Get extensive, detailed, and critical feedback for it.
- Enlist the help of editors and beta readers to get a perspective of how your novel reads.
- Research publishing houses or platforms.
- Read up about processes you will encounter in this journey, including things like sending query letters, getting an ISBN, cover design, etc.
Step 3: Tie loose ends.
A well-written novel is a novel with consistent and compelling storytelling. With your NaNo manuscript, you’re likely to have developed the story itself, in terms of setting, plot, and characterization. Now, the task is to make sure they are all consistent within themselves and with each other. In the heat of reaching 50,000 words, it wouldn’t be surprising if you deviated from the original story idea. Now is the best time to fix all of that.
Step 4: Kill your darlings, stick to the main plot.
This is similar to the previous step, in that you will be streamlining your story. No matter how profound your prose might be, if something is directly irrelevant to your main story, cut it out. If an object that you’ve given the spotlight doesn’t serve its purpose by the end of the story, scratch it. Here also, you’re aiming for internal consistency.
If, while tying up loose ends, you’ve introduced new elements, make sure they tie into the story as well.
Step 6: Get feedback on your drafts.
If it’s too early to commit to a professional for financial reasons or otherwise (but we highly recommend you do at some point), entrust your manuscript to a friend or fellow writer. They will not only tell you how your book reads, but also help you in tying your manuscript together. Their perspective will allow you to look at the book in new angles.
Step 5: Rework your draft to improve prose.
Write, rewrite, edit until you’re satisfied with what you have.
This is the best time to work on subtleties. If you’re prone to long-drawn descriptions, rework them to indicate action and spend as much time as you can to analyze the value of each word of your manuscript from a narrative standpoint. Work on subtext and other minor elements that you don’t want to draw unnecessary amounts of attention to.
Step 7: Get an editor.
Now is the time to commit yourself to hire a professional editor. The advantages of doing this are manifold: not only will a professional spot minor grammar and syntactical errors, they will also be keen only helping you improve your writing to make it more consistent and compelling. The other advantage of going to a professional is that they can help shape your novel keeping in mind the goal of publication. Think of your editor as an ally who helps you enter this landscape of publishing.
Step 8: Set yourself on the path to publication!
Phew! Now that your manuscript is more or less ready, think about how you’re going about the publication process. Do you want to take a more traditional route or opt for self-publishing? Depending on your answer, think about the next steps of cover design, finding an agent, working on marketing, etc.
If you’re interested in self-publishing, here is a resource you can start with.
Our editors at PaperTrue are always eager to see the stories of budding writers and novelists and would be thrilled to take a look at your manuscripts. If you’re looking to get your book typeset and designed, you can also take a look at Trulyset.
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We hope this primer helps you on the post-NaNoWriMo journey. Keep following us for more in-depth articles on fiction writing!
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