Last year I wrote a novel during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). No big deal; according to the site, 325,142 other Writers finished a book in 2014. However, I wrote in November, edited in December, and published in January.
Most of you aren’t Figments. I believe you have to type or handwrite your words, rather than have them appear on the screen when you think them. But if you’re writing a book with the intention of publishing, there’s some NaNo prep you might want to do now that October is officially here.
1) Solidify your idea
Every pantser, gardener, and booper just cried out in pain. “We don’t plan! We run by the seat of our pants!” (Sounds painful, by the way.) If you’re writing just for fun, yes, pants away. (Please don’t take them off. That’s a verb, not a noun.) However, my studies show that the majority of traditionally published novelists plot to one degree or another. (My studies may or may not be other people’s studies that I’m using as an example.) J.K. Rowling? Plotter. Tolkein? Plotter. Even Stephen King, who treats plotting like adjectives, does at least get a good concept of his story ahead of time. Since I disagree with him about beautiful, insightful, useful adjectives, I’ll just treat him as an anomaly.
So, to one degree or another, you need a solid idea before you start November. If you’re writing fantasy or historical, you may want a good map. For science fiction, you may want to research the science. For me, it’s getting point A, a random concept and characters, and point Z. Then I make notes of whatever must happen to get me to point Z. It’s not perfect, but it does keep the story rolling. That’s what’s truly important in November: keeping the story rolling.
But, Z, I don’t even have an idea. Yes, you do. Everyone has ideas. Look out your window. If you don’t have a window, politely borrow one (I don’t advocate stealing). Write down the first person you see. It’s dark out my window, so I wrote “shadow”. From there, I could write something mainstream about a girl with a phobia about shadows or I could write a Figment made up entirely of the shadows of others. More likely to be the latter for me, but I won’t fault you if you go mainstream.
If you’re still really uncertain, go to a site with writing prompts. No, there aren’t any links here. You’re a big Writer now. Learn to use Google. Searching “writing prompts” will likely be the least-triggering thing you’ll search today.
2) Give yourself a timeline
When I wrote Veneri Verbum, I figured out ahead of time how long I needed for hitting each milestone. The entire novel, by the way, had to be written by November 30th, not just 50k. If you want to be published, you need to do the same. Here’s a tip: however long you think anything past first draft stage will take, double it. This will prevent you from having a matching permanent bald spot on one side where you’ve pulled your hair out trying to meet your impossible deadlines. Not that I mind if you want to match with me, but we should at least get t-shirts or something.
My timeline for 2015 goes something like this:
- October: plot, outline, and research The Big Con
- November: write The Big Con (I have it broken down a bit more than this)
- December: pre-edit The Big Con. There are many who will have an issue with this, but I literally forget what I wrote by the next day. I pre-edit early in the month, then I set the book aside for important festivities like the annual Moan About Snow and Wish for Heat Day.
- January: re-edit The Big Con, which usually involves a rewrite for me. Then find beta readers. Then bribe beta readers with cookies because I didn’t wait for my beta readers when I wrote Veneri Verbum and it shows.
- February: plot a new book and make more cookies. Wait on beta readers.
- March: incorporate all changes from beta readers and re-write book again. Now proofread or get a good Editor. Since Editors are rather evil in my world, I do this step myself, but I advise others to use someone else for their Editor. You may know one who isn’t evil.
- April: start formatting. This is a necessary step if you are self-publishing. If you’re not, this is where you send off your book to some nebulous Publisher. If Moses could be left safely in a basket by his parents, I won’t judge you for this.
- May: submit your book to wherever you like (Kindle, Smashwords, Goodreads, Createspace, Lulu). Some people get a proof copy and re-edit. I like to be as surprised by random typoes and color issues as anyone else.
There you have it. I will never again be publishing my book in less than three months; I can only afford to halve my life expectancy once and that was for the first book.
If you want more tips, I feel like making this into a series. Look for the next part eventually. I’m a little iffy on Time; Figment-time doesn’t work the same as people-time. No more than one week. I think I can manage that.
Go. Do your homework now.