NaNo Boosters

November is NaNoWriMo month! 

If you’ve never heard of it, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, a time when thousands of hopeful writers spend every possible minute banging out  the novel they’ve always wanted to write. Those who finish a 50,000 word novel in thirty days receive a certificate of completion, and little booster badges to keep going.

NaNo started back in 1999 as a support group for a bunch of friends. Today, it’s grown into a massive non-profit organization with more than 150,000 participants. More than 400,000 people finished their novels. 

Sounds great, doesn’t it? More than 250 NaNo novels have been picked up by publishers.

Two hundred fifty, out of hundreds of thousands. And that’s part of the problem. NaNo focuses on speed and word count, not quality. They encourage you to write schlock – don’t think too long, don’t get locked up, let the ideas flow. Git’r done. People finish their novel and can’t wait to send it off to a publisher. And the publisher will see the line “I just finished my novel for NaNoWriMo…” and immediately the manuscript will hit the trash can.  

Why? Because in many ways, NaNo is a pat on the back, nothing more. A writer – someone who is dead-set on writing, knows the craft – doesn’t need a dedicated month to write or stickers to keep them going. Writers write. That’s what they do. Nothing stops them. NaNo makes it a game for those who wish to be writers, but often don’t know what to do. There is no accountability for content – you could type “This is my novel” 13,000 times. Finishing a manuscript, typing The End, is only the start of a writer’s job. It’s shaping the clay before the sculpting, putting the pencil sketch onto your canvas before the paint. Every manuscript – every, save a very few elite writers (and I’m not talking rich or popular ones) – is garbage at the rough draft.

Every.  One.

Every novel must be edited, rewritten, checked, rechecked, spellchecked, polished, and inconsistencies and logic errors ironed out. Plot holes must be sewn shut. Grammar – please, oh please – must be fixed. No manuscript  goes to an agent or publisher on the rough draft. Most writers doesn’t even let their beta readers – those friends whose opinions they trust – read their rough draft. You might slap that story together in 30 days, but the editing and rewrites are more likely to take months. And even when you’ve edited it twelve times, made the corrections of six beta readers, run it through grammar and spell check, there will still be some error that everything has still missed. 

You want to write? Write. A writer burns with passion. A writer wants their work to be the best it possibly can, not rush production for a certificate of completion. Quality is the key that will open doors. Read everything that you can lay your eyes on. Learn format. Learn editing. If you have a question, check it on the internet. Check your facts – if you aren’t sure an African Swallow can carry a coconut, look it up.  Cross-reference to make sure your source is correct. Author Naomi Wolf – a respected writer with several influential best-sellers to her name – was caught red-handed when she realized in the middle of a radio interview that her interpretation of relevant material was completely wrong. The publisher then pulled the published book. ALWAYS do your research.  Anyone who has the seen the movie My Cousin Vinny is well aware that a 1964 Buick Skylark was not available with positraction, a tiny fact that would escape most people but proved hugely important in the legal case of the film. Facts matter.

And when you do finish your manuscript, with or without NaNoWriMo to keep you focused, and you think you’ve got something good, check out these books on writing to help you polish it into a sure-fire winner! 

Strunk and White: The Elements of Style
The Writers Digest Writing Clinic  
From Where You Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction
Writing and Publishing Your Book 
Writing the Blockbuster Novel 
The Craft of Writing Science Fiction That Sells
How to Self Publish Your Book
Just Write: Creating Unforgettable Fiction
Sol Stein’s Reference Book for Writers   

Cheshire Library also has a Writer’s Group that meets monthly (run by yours truly), check our Events Calendar for Cat Tales Writers Group and join us!

What to Do After NaNoWriMo

You made it through November with your NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) novel completed! You’ve spent the last few weeks reading through it, making changes, and having friends read it.
Now what?
51WO4VbO7lLIf you’re really serious, the next step is to track down a book such as the Writer’s Market or the Literary Marketplace. These are the free-lance (if you don’t have a writer’s contract from an employer, you’re free-lance) writer’s Bibles. Whether you are writing a memoir, a magazine article, an indepth research on the history of the Madagascar Lemur Louse, or that spy novel that’s been twisting in the back of your head, this is the book you NEED to read.

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Both books are full of information for the beginning and professional writer. You will find encouragement, essays, notes on what to do and how to do it, professional agents who will promote your work and get you published, as well as publishers, what they are looking for, and more importantly, HOW they want you to submit your work. Do not waste the editor’s time by sending them a romance query when they do not publish romance stories. Don’t look like an amateur by submitting an email file when the agent only takes printed copy. Don’t waste your postage sending to a publisher who is not currently accepting new submissions. These books will tell you exactly how to submit your work, and to whom, to get it noticed.index

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Whether you choose to go a traditional publishing route or create your own published work through Amazon or similar sites, pay the money for a professional to review your work first, even if all you do is pay your child’s teacher to go over it. A professional will correct your spelling, your grammar, and maybe even point out a flaw you didn’t see. They can make your manuscript appear professional and polished, and give you your best shot. If you choose to include testimonials to your work, don’t use quotes from family members. Find someone with even a minimum of credit behind their name, or don’t do it. You want your presentation to be as professional-looking as possible.

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Remember, in the publishing industry, money is supposed to flow toward you, never away from you. If you are being asked to put money up front to help with costs, you are being scammed. There is a wonderful site every writer should know: SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America). This page is for all writers, not just fantasy and science fiction authors. It will alert you to the current scams aimed at writers who don’t know better, and take you step by step through what you should and shouldn’t do as a new writer of any genre.

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And don’t be discouraged by rejection. It’s not personal. Some publishers receive thousands of submissions per month. Even J.K. Rowling was rejected numerous times before Harry Potter was picked up by Scholastic. Imagine how those publishers feel now!