NaNoWriMo Winner? Hold On to that Novel!

Photo credit: theurchiness on Flickr
Now that the NaNoWriMo frenzy has ended, many writers around the world are happily sitting on sparkling new novels, still steaming from the presses. For many, December is an exciting time—after all, with a new manuscript under their belts, there are more than a couple dreamers out there with their eyes on the magical "p" word: published.

Unfortunately I'm going to have to rain on that parade a little bit—at least, for the time being.

It's no secret that many NaNoWriMo winners feel tempted to immediately publish (or try to publish) their freshly written novels—hell, with five free CreateSpace copies of their NaNo novels given to all winners, the temptation to hit "upload" or begin querying instantly is indisputably there. But it's a temptation that you absolutely must resist.

You see, there's this tricky little tidbit of information about writing that many writers, especially new writers, sometimes overlook: your first draft is never meant to be your final draft. Never. Never never never. Did you get that? Your first draft is NOT equal to your final draft.

Usually this is the time when I say there are very rare exceptions, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that there are no exceptions for this rule—even the most beautifully written first drafts (i.e.: first drafts written in a span of much more than thirty days) need some form of editing. Sorry, guys.

I've said it before and I'll probably say it again in the future, but I'm glad that self-publishing wasn't a thing when I wrote my first novel. More than glad—relieved—because as the impressionable, young, dreamy-eyed new writer that I was, I'm not sure how well I would have resisted the temptation had it been a legitimate form of publishing at the time like it is now. Because as a new writer, I hadn't yet learned just how terrible first drafts tend to be, and I hadn't yet accepted that when writers talk about massive revisions, they often mean necessary massive revisions, and no, you are not an exception to the rule.

That being said, I'm not saying that your NaNoWriMo novel is terrible, or that it's never going to get published, or anything like that. Many NaNoWriMo novels have in fact been published and there's certainly nothing stopping you from joining the ranks. But these novels all have something in common—their respective authors spent a considerable amount of time and effort editing them. They didn't send out query letters to agents on December 1st, or upload them to Amazon moments after writing "The End."

If you're a NaNoWriMo winner or a writer who just recently completed a novel—congratulations! You just achieved something great and you should be proud of yourself. I hope you've celebrated appropriately and given yourself a nice, good pat on the back.

I also hope you've put your novel away and distracted yourself with something else.

Post novel-completion time is not the time to publish your work, nor is the time to immediately start editing. Now is the time to rest, develop some distance from your work so that you can actually effectively edit and be proud of your accomplishment. Now is the time to read some really great novels, and watch movies, and brainstorm your next work or write something new. But any thoughts you have of publishing your new novel? Yeah, put those away for many more months. You have plenty of work to do first, after you've developed the proper distance from your writing.

Then, when you're ready, you can dive into some edits and second and third and fourth drafts. Take your time and make your work as good as you possibly can—the publishing world will still be there when you're finally ready to give it a try.

Have you ever been tempted to publish or query too early? Did you give in to your temptation? Share your experience in the comments below!


Lisa Shambrook said...

Great advice! I'm sitting on mine for a few months. I'll enjoy Christmas, some great books and movies, and come back at some point in the new year to delve back in.
I agree the temptation is too strong for some people, but I've learned to sit on it and rewrite several times before doing anything else! I'll be searching for beta readers too, if you're going to try for publication (self or otherwise), get it as right as you can!

Ava Jae said...

Thanks, Lisa! Kudos to you for sitting on your novel for a few months--I usually can just barely manage to wait one. :) You also make a fantastic point about rewriting several times and finding suitable beta readers before you attempt any kind of publishing. I absolutely agree that you should try to get it as right as you possibly can!

Robin Red said...

Where have I been? It wasn't until last month that I knew NaNoWriMo existed. Now it has passed and I was not a part of it. I should have gone wired with my writing sooner.

Ava Jae said...

I wouldn't worry about it, Robin--there's always next year! And if you'd like to participate sooner, there's Camp NaNoWriMo which I believe takes place in August or July, if I'm not mistaken.

Andi-Roo said...

Yikes! I admittedly haven't completed my first WIP yet, so perhaps I'll feel differently when I reach that point, but it would never in a krillion years occur to me to run with a first draft. That seems so counter-intuitive! Particularly with a rush-job such as that produced by NaNoWriMo! When I do finally reach that mystical finish line, I have plans to put my ms down for at least a few weeks before beginning the process of self-editing, which I anticipate will be less painful than the actual writing since I love me a nice red pen. Following that I look forward to another round of more painful re-writes before sending it out to beta-readers, then more death-inspiring re-writes based on reader reactions, & professional copy editing before even considering approaching an agent or publisher. Am I just nuts?

Ava Jae said...

You are absolutely NOT nuts, Andi--in fact, I think you have a very solid and smart plan. It is hugely important that you get as much feedback as you can and that you edit/rewrite until your manuscript is as good as you can possibly make it before even thinking about entering the query trenches. As Lisa said, best that you get your work as right as you can before attempting any form of publication.

Brie said...

Thanks so much for the photo credit! People like you make the internet a lovely place to create.

Ava Jae said...

Absolutely! It's a wonderful photo and I was thrilled to see it was licensed under Creative Commons. Thanks for sharing your work!

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