Sunday, November 25, 2012

So you've written a book....

By: Joelle Charbonneau

NaNoWriMo is almost over.  For those keeping score, by the end of today, those participating in National Novel Writing Month are hoping to have almost 42,000 words done by the end of today.  When the month is over, those who have been successful in their goal will have 50,000 words completed….depending on whether this is a novella or a novel or if the project was started before the month long challenge, you may or may not have completed a book.  However, regardless of whether THE END is just days away or a month or two off – CONGRATS!  You’ve written a book.  That’s an awesome accomplishment.  Every year I hear people around me talk about sitting down to write a book.  Very few ever accomplish that goal.  So regardless of when THE END comes – celebrate!  You’ve earned it. 

So, you’ve written a book.  Now what?

Well, without knowing what you want out of your writing career, I can only offer suggestions as to what not to do.   

Here goes: 

1)      Do not - Immediately start querying agents with the book you just completed. 

Why?  Well, in the first place, all writers need to reread and edit their work.  It doesn’t matter how great you are at your craft, there will be plotlines to tighten, character arcs to round out and sometimes whole scenes to scrap.  Never submit something you haven’t taken the time to polish.  

Second, industry professionals get thousands of submissions during the months of December and January from NaNoWriMo writers who are so excited to finish writing that they start querying before they’ve taken the time to polish their work.  Because of this, most agents are going to assume that a great number of the queries they receive aren’t for manuscripts that have been carefully revised, but instead are from authors still celebrating their THE END accomplishment.   

Revise and then wait until February until you submit so you don’t get lumped in with other writers who didn’t take the time to polish.  (You also don’t want to get grouped with the writers who make a resolution to finally submit that novel…which is why I suggest you wait until a month into the New Year.)

2)      Do not - Assume that your book is going to sell for big money and change your life.

Trust me—most authors never quit their day job.  A lot of genre fiction reaps advances of between $3,000-$10,000 a book.  Not exactly retirement money.   Make sure your goals are not set so high that you will fail even if you succeed. 

3)      Do not - Immediately self-publish your book. 

I think self-publishing is a wonderful option for a great number of writers.  It provides a platform for backlist books as well as for novelists who have chosen for a variety of reasons to not traditionally publish.  (ie: book is too unusual, couldn’t find the right agent, the market is trending away from the topic so publishers aren’t interested, etc…etc…etc…)  However, while self-publishing is a great avenue for authors, it is also a seductively dangerous one.  All you have to do is format and upload to the publishing platforms and voila – you are published!  Immediate gratification after all those days of typing away in front of your computer screen.

However, while the rush you feel running around the house in your bunny slippers screaming “I’m published” is exhilarating, the after effects of the decision to upload your book will resonate long after that celebratory cheer has ended.  If you price your book correctly and market it well, people will buy it.  They’ll read it.  They’ll judge you—the writer—based on what they read.  Take care in making sure the product is the best one you can produce.  Edit.  Proofread.  Have someone else edit and proofread.  Design a kick-butt cover – don’t just slap anything on in order to make the process fast.  Don’t cut corners.  Trust me.  You and your book deserve better.

4)      Do not - Wait for this book to sell before beginning your next project.
So many authors wait for that first book to find a home before coming up with another novel idea.  They work so hard to query and polish and revise and resubmit that they never write the next story.  Trust me when I say my first book wasn’t good.  NO ONE should ever read that book.  But writing it wasn’t a waste of time because it taught me two important lessons.  1) That I liked to write.  2) That I could get to THE END.  Those were quite possibly the two most important lessons I learned in my professional writing career.  So, if this is the first book you’ve written, YAY!  Revise, submit and move on.  You’re next book will be better.  The next one better still.  Whether it is NaNoWriMo or whether it is the month of July, writers write.  End of story.

Congratulations.  You’ve written a book.  Now go write another one!


angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Thanks for the great advice. Especially that it probably won't be a blockbuster and to not query until spring.

Steve Weddle said...

Also, publishing shuts down between Thanksgiving and St Patrick's Day. Best spend that time revising.

Marlena H. said...

I've hit the 50K, but I'm not yet at The End. I will, hopefully in this next week before NaNo is over. I have been filling in the gaps between scenes for almost a week since I hit that 50K and I am now at 64K.

I am ready to consider all options for publishing, but I think mine fits into that unusual category, so I have looked heavily at Self-Publishing options. Of course, I may end up finding a traditional publisher that publishes the right genre and decide to try them.

Before I do either, I have a plan.

Step one: Once I hit The End, take a breather until the next day. I don't want to wait long, but I'm pretty sure when I finish it, it will be late at night or early morning, because I'll know how close I am and want to finish.
Step two: Once that breather is over, I will print it out, double spaced, grab a pen or pencil, and commendeer the kitchen table. Then, I will spend the rest of the day (or until class starts if it's a school day) reading allowed and making notes as I go. No edits allowed that take more than a moment to figure out. I'll make a note and more on. This is for over all effect and to force me to read every word.
Step three: Once I have finished going through the first time I will go through and figure out if I know how to fix whatever problems I found. If not, I will make a note and move on.
Step four: I have someone who is going to read through it and give me suggestions. At this point I will send it to him. I will probably ask if he's okay with me leaving notes on what I can't figure out. (I will probably start on the second book while this is going on.)
Step five: I will look over whatever suggestions and comments the above person has and see if I should use them.
Step six: I will look for an editor. I may do this prior to this point, but if I don't have someone already I will at this point. The person above is only doing a limited amount of this. I want someone more thorough.
Step seven: This will depend entirely on what the person I get as an editor suggests, but I will probably be working on book two part of the time. Hopefully by the middle of next year I will have something ready to either send to publishers or to publish myself.

I appreciate the ideas in this article and although I knew most of this, I will keep them in mind when I am post NaNoWriMo.

Jim Magwood said...


I've written a book by the title of your article: "So You've Written A Book, Now What?" If you'd like to see it for review or a followup to your article, I'd be happy to share it with you.

At my site:

Thanks for your good article. Stuff all new writers need to know.


Jim Magwood

Bryon Quertermous said...


It's great that you've got a plan but might I suggest a tweak to it? Instead of waiting just a day (or less depending on when you finish) before you jump into revisions wait longer.

A month is ideal, but even a week can make a huge difference. After such an intense writing experience you're going to be way to close to that manuscript to get any sort of objective read on it. Start work on Book Two to help clear your head of the first one and give it some space.

Good luck.