(My Journey in 2019 – Part 3)
NaNoWriMo is finally over. The arduous preparation, the never-ending hard-work, the highs, the lows. It’s all in the past and you’ve completed an incredible feat of endurance. Be proud. Even if you did not reach the 50,000 word mark, in participating alone, you are victorious. Before you, whether it be on paper or computer, you have a work of art. But now, a great question lies in wait. Where do you go from here? The path forward, even after the marathon, is daunting.
…And the answer?
It’s up to you.
You can now do with your novel whatever you choose. Though, some of the most common options include publishing it as an E-book (on a service such as Kindle Direct), or seeking a traditional publishing agent. Either way, the chances are you’ll want to edit your novel before doing anything else. Right now, that’s what I’m doing. It’s an on-going process and today I’d like to discuss it.
First, a bit of perspective. It’s late in the evening, my girlfriend has gone to bed and I’m sat at my computer desk, typing the final words of my novel. Butterflies flutter around inside of me, keeping my spirits high as adrenaline pumps through me. Despite having exhausted myself wholly in writing, the end is so close and it’s inspiring. The last stretch is difficult but excitement invades my every sense. I knew editing came next and I very much looked forward to it. Those who have read the previous entries in this series (Part 1 & Part 2) know I’m a perfectionist and that it was with great hardship that I did not edit whilst writing. But finally, on that cold winter eve, the walls are about to crumble. I could rip my work apart and rebuild it as the story I wanted to tell and with that in mind, upon finishing, I was immediately ready to jump back to the prologue and begin crafting my tale. Yet, for some reason, a mysterious force compelled me to research into how other people edited their novels. It crushed my spirits when the first thing I read pulled the emergency stop on my momentum.
Take a break.
I didn’t want to take a break. I was ready. But, those three words weren’t cited from but a single website. From multiple sources, I saw them again and again. “Take a break and in doing so, you’ll become more impartial to your work. It’ll create a more effective editing process.”
At first, I refuted this. Everyone else needed a break but not me. I could edit immediately and my novel would turn out great.
I was being naive.
Luckily, the end of year holidays was on the horizon and I decided, at the very least, I would wait until they were over. I’d be far too busy with family and friends to edit, right?
…Wait, was I listening to the online advice but too proud to admit it to myself?
Boy, I have a problem.
Nevertheless, only a week passed and, in that time, much to my surprise, I found myself humbled. I realised I did, in fact, need a break from working. If I edited straight away, as tempting as it was, I would have made sloppy work. After forcing myself to write over a thousand words a day, my mind had grown weary and needed time off.
The first week came and went. As it did, I became more comfortable in not doing anything. My novel grew less fresh in my mind and when crafting your work, this is key. It makes it easier to delete the sentences and paragraphs that don’t work when you do come back to it. From what I discovered in my research; it’s recommended to take about two months off but that is in no way a rule. Only you can decide how much time you need and by January 1st 2020, the new year and decade, I was ready to crack on.
The very first thing I did and the very first thing I recommend you do, is to read your novel from top to bottom. You need to refamiliarize yourself to it without editing. I will tell you this now; it’s much easier said than done. I had to tie my hands behind my back (metaphorically), as the urge to ignore this stage was strong. With each sentence the backspace key illuminated more and more, like an addiction. I had to be strong, I had to be strong. I aimed to read one chapter a night and that is what I did. I made sure I did it late at night, right before bed so that I was too tired to focus too much on editing. All I needed to do was read and relax before sleeping. Though to my surprise, I found I was reading a different novel to the one I wrote during NaNoWriMo. At the end of November, I was proud. I thought my novel was incredible, the best piece of work ever written. I knew some of it would feel rushed and need touching up (I wrote half of it on a bus!) but matters were much worse than I thought.
To name but a few things I discovered:
Spelling errors, plot holes, wrong character names, ideas that didn’t flow, characters acting out of character….
ALL IN ONE CHAPTER.
It wasn’t the best novel ever written, that’s for sure. In fact, the novel isn’t even a minefield that needs cleaning up. It’s an apocalyptic wasteland and all I have is a trash picker and a deflated ego. Remember in Part 1 of this series (Right here!), when I said you’re piling the sand into a bucket to craft a sand castle? If your novel is anything like mine, then I would now like to retract that statement. You’ve collected a whole beach of sand and need to make an entire city.
I’m not kidding.
…But don’t get me wrong, I’m not demotivated and you shouldn’t be either. Rome wasn’t built in a day and it’ll take one chapter at a time. But I do see now why it’s said that the real work begins at the end of NaNoWriMo.
So, with this wasteland of a novel, it poses the question, why not hire an editor? If that’s what you want to do, then for sure! Though remember they can be costly, especially with a thick manuscript. For me, hiring an editor for my novel isn’t the best choice right now. I seek traditional publishing in the future and if successful, this will involve an editor (at the publisher’s expense). But in my novel’s current apocalyptic stage, a private editor would have too much to do. I’m sure many would take it up! It would mean a big pay out for them. However, with a novel in a state as messy as mine, at the end of editing, how much of the novel would still be mine? Would my novel still have my heart or would the final draft be something I no longer recognise? For all I know, my novel could be a bestseller. If it ever is, I want to read it and think, I did this. And while an editor may keep my story, I cannot be certain they will keep my touch. I want to present a polished piece. Something that needs a light clean, not a full scrubbing. For that reason, the second draft will be mine and mine alone. It’s that in which my editor, hired by myself or a publisher, will receive. That way, my mark will be at the forefront of my work and to me…To me that means a lot.
To delve deeper into my desire to traditionally publish, I want to talk a bit more about it. As I have mentioned before (Part 2), you may have noticed I have not talked about my novel’s plot. If you want to publish through an agent, I’d recommend being vague about your novel’s plot too. I will say now, I’m not experienced in the matter; publishing is an on-going process for me! But I’ve discovered agents don’t like to put out a piece of work that is already all over the internet. It makes sense. At the end of the day, book publishing is a business. Why would a business want to pick up a piece that’s already out there? Even if it’s not in its full form. Be careful.
Anyway, this won’t be a traditional publishing vs self-publishing segment. Google is your friend for that. I want to talk about why I myself decided to publish the “old fashion way”. I don’t have anything against self-publishing. In fact, to speak highly of self-publishing, with it you maintain more creative freedom. In self-publishing, you put your world and your world alone out there. Whatever you decide is up to you. Cover art? Blurb content? Editing? You’re the boss. I am willing to sacrifice that freedom though, in lieu of going through an agent and the traditional route. Why? Because self-publishing locks out the potential to traditionally publish in 99% of cases. If I self-publish my story, the chances are, I won’t find any joy with publishers if I then decide I want to take the traditional route. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not unheard of for self-published work to land a traditional book deal (take one look at The Martian by Andy Weir, for example) but it IS rare and I’m not that lucky. I want to keep all of my options open. Should traditional publishing fail and should no agents bite, then I will self-publish. Either way my book is going to be out there. I’m not afraid to take the reins myself but I won’t jump to that conclusion, not while the option to publish traditionally is still open to me. If ever I am asked why I never scored a book deal with my self-published novel, I want to be able to answer,
“Well, I tried!”
For all I know, failing to traditionally publish might be the best thing to ever happen to me! I may find success in self-publishing but I want to be able to say I explored all options should my future come to that. And that’s all there is to it.
Thank you for taking the time to read this series! I hope you found it insightful, informative and enjoyable! See you in NaNoWriMo 2020, where we’ll together tackle the mountain from the very bottom, all over again.