Sunday, January 10, 2016

Writers, you may start your post-NaNoWriMo engines.

Remember back at the end of November, when that NaNoWriMo deadline was breathing down all our necks? And I congratulated you on meeting the deadline, but told you in no uncertain terms to set aside your novel until January?

Well, it's January. The holidays are over and the decorations are put away (except for the icicle lights on the eaves -- yeah, yeah, you'll pull them down when the weather's better, I hear ya). We have feasted and toasted and exchanged gifts, and maybe even garnered some congratulations for a NaNo job well done. Now, it's back to work.

Do not -- I repeat, DO NOT -- hit publish yet.

Yes, I am going to let you hit publish. Eventually. Just not yet.

I wouldn't even hand over your book to a friend or family member yet, no matter how much they've been pestering you to see it. Instead, I would direct you back to the NaNo site to sign the following pledge:

Then  put on your own reader's hat and read your book yourself. Make a list, if you're of the list-making persuasion, of the plot threads that go nowhere. See whether you've included a beginning, middle, and ending, and cast a critical eye toward whether you sped through any of them to get to the finish line (not that I've ever done that). See if things need to be moved around. Consider whether you've committed an info dump, either in the first few chapters (hint: if a whole chapter is backstory, break it up) or in dialogue (hint: if Character A is telling Character B stuff that B already knows, move it out of dialogue and into the narrative).

Then swap your reader's hat for your editor's hat, and get to work.

If it helps, I am right there with you. I have mentioned before that I'm a plotter -- that is, I create a rough outline before I start writing -- but even with that in hand, I had no idea how Spider's Lifeline would end when I sat down at my computer on November 1. I knew what I wanted to accomplish, but not the final shape it would take. So on November 1, I yammered for a couple of paragraphs, just so I could get going on the thing. By the end of the month, of course, I knew how the book ended (because I'd written the ending) -- but I also knew I was going to have to rewrite at least the first few paragraphs of the book, and possibly more.

So this afternoon, I decided I'd dithered long enough, and opened the file. Turns out that it's not as bad as it could have been (yay!). But I'm sure glad I hadn't sent it to anybody else yet, because I'm finding typos and extra words and missing spaces, and all the other glorious messes one makes when one is powering through a first draft at light speed.

And I'm only up to Chapter 3.

So take some time over the course of the next few weeks to polish your work. The folks at NaNoWriMo suggest you spend January and February revising, but every writer is different; some may need more time, some less. In any case, don't send your story out into the wilds before you edit the hell out of it. Which can be almost as much fun as writing the first draft. No, really.

When your book is ready for a professional edit, I'd be happy to consider taking it on. Contact me at and mention NaNoWriMo for a 50 percent discount off my regular editing rate. This discount is good from February 1, 2016 through March 30, 2016.

And thanks to those who have purchased Fissured during the 99-cent sale I forgot to mention before now (whoops). It'll still be 99 cents for another couple of days at Amazon, in case you don't have a copy. And if you have a friend who ought to be hooked on the Pipe Woman Chronicles, Seized is still free. So that's two books for less than a buck.

These moments of not-so-headstrong blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

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