-a post by Jeanna Mason Stay
Remember here, where I gave you eight steps to NaNoWriMo success? Well, November is over, and now it’s time to start talking a bit more about step #8. There is good news, and there is bad news here. Let’s start with the good news.
The good news is that even if you didn’t do any of the other seven steps, even if you didn’t hit 50,000 words in November—even if you didn’t try at all—you can still do step #8, the most important step of all.
The bad news: It’s harder than the rest of them combined.
Yes, the dreaded step #8 is to polish the novel (or short story or picture book or quilt or whatever).
If you only follow through on the first seven steps, you will turn out a lot of words and you will probably learn about your story quite a bit and tap some creative wells you didn’t know about. This is all awesomeness on your way to epic awesomeness. But, sadly, it isn’t enough. Because what you have is most likely so raw and full of holes no one will ever want to read it (including, maybe, you). (Okay, yes, I know that there are people who write fantastic first drafts, but those people are not me. And I’m sorry to say that they’re probably not you either.)
So the next step is, like Betsy Schow is always saying, to be a finisher. You’ve been a finisher at NaNoWriMo (or maybe not, but that’s irrelevant), but now you need to be a bigger finisher. You need to take what you’ve done, pick it apart, and stick it back together again in a way that makes sense. And then you need to make it pretty.
I’m saying all of this entirely hypocritically, by the way. I have four fairly large (50K or over) novel manuscripts sitting on my virtual shelves, one 30K manuscript, and scads of bits and pieces too. But I’ve only carried one of them to “completion.” (I sigh when I say “completion,” because every time I think it’s done, I get some feedback from a friend or reviewer and decide to fix it a little more. So even though I’m submitting it to agents, and it really is polished, it’s never quite polished enough, you know? Sigh.) So essentially I haven’t been much of a finisher.
That is because this step takes more work and thought and problem solving than any of the others, but I also think it’s the one that sets apart the serious writers. Sure, it’s not exactly “easy” to do NaNoWriMo, but how many people actually do something with their manuscripts afterward? I would bet that most manuscripts just languish for years (like mine).
Be one of the few! Make a plan and a goal. You have the entire rest of the year to be a NoFier (Novel Finisher . . . hmmm, somehow I don’t think this abbreviation is ever going to catch on). I actually ran some imaginary numbers on this at one point and determined that if I devoted even half as much time to writing during the rest of the months of the year that I spent in November, I could easily finish a novel a year. Draft in November, polish/reviews/revisions in December through September, outline a new one in October. Chop chop, that’s that. Tragically, this plan has yet to happen.
But 2014 is my year, people. One more of those manuscripts sitting on my shelf is going to get pretty.
How about yours?
P.S. I really wish I had come up with a cool picture or gif or something to go with this post. But honestly, given my brain power right now, you should probably just be impressed that I used bold and italics. That’s some seriously high-tech stuff there.
P.P.S. If you live in or near Logan, Utah, I hope you are planning on going to LDStorymakers this year. And if you don’t live close, consider spending huge amounts of money to go. We’re talking about Orson Scott Card and Brandon Sanderson here, people (both of whose classes are going to fill up ridiculously quickly). And many other good things. It is going to be full of epicness. Make sure you register early to get into nifty classes and whatnot (registration opens on the 16th), but not any earlier than I do. :)