You have a first draft. Now what?

Many of you have recently finished NaNoWriMo. Or maybe you finished the first draft of a non-NaNo project. Either way, you have a first draft done. Yay! But what do you do with it now?

  1. Celebrate! Really, you earned it. I suggest creating a first-draft celebratory tradition. For me, I always buy a box of Star Crunch to reward myself. Maybe you buy yourself books or indulge in a little Netflix binge. Whatever it is, go ahead and treat yo self.treat yo self
  2. Let it sit. Sometimes this is easy. I know that I am so sick of my recently-completed NaNoWriMo project that I have no problem setting it aside for a month. Sometimes, though, I feel like I’ve got momentum and I want to keep working. In those cases I jot down whatever ideas I have and then put the project aside for a bit.
  3. Decide what your longterm goals are. Where do you see this book down the road. Are you wanting it traditionally published? Self published? Maybe it’s just a novel for you to learn how to write a little better and you don’t plan on publishing it at all. Whatever it is, knowing what you want for the book longterm will help you decide what to do with it next.
  4. Make a revision plan. Now that your project has sat awhile, you should reread it. I usually reread the whole thing before I make any changes, and I take notes while rereading. Figure out what needs changing and how you’re going to change it. I also find it helpful to make sort of a timeline for these revisions, even though I pretty much never follow my timeline. Then, get going on those revisions.
  5. Polish. Repeat steps 1-4 until your manuscript is as clean as you can make it.

And that’s how you get your manuscript ready for the next step! Congratulations to all of you who finished NaNoWriMo. Keep working on those novels until they’re ready to take on the world!

Tips for Self-editing

Even if you plan to hire an editor, it’s a good idea to edit your own work as much as possible. That said, it can be hard to edit your own work. Especially when you feel like you’ve been working on it so long that it your eyes seem to glaze over at the mere mention of it. Today I want to give you some practical tips for getting through edits.

  • Give it time. I find I pretty much always need to let a project sit for awhile before doing serious revisions. Give your brain a little time to forget some of the details so that it doesn’t just gloss over them while reading.
  • Change the font. I’m alway surprised by how effective this is in tricking my brain into thinking that I haven’t read the page a hundred times before. It’s subtle, but I’ve found it useful.
  • Print it out. I think everyone has had that experience where they notice a typo as soon as they print out a paper or hit send on an email. I don’t know why this happens, but you can use it to your advantage. Like changing the font, looking at a printed page will help your brain see the work in a fresh light.
  • Go through it backwards. This is something I suggest if you’ve made it to the line-editing stage of revisions. Start with your last sentence and then work your way to the beginning. This forces your brain to focus on the flow of individual sentences, rather than the story at large.
  • Vary your reading speed. I think sometimes it’s really helpful to go through the manuscript really slowly. Other times I like going through really fast. I notice different things depending on how fast I read.
  • Change your environment. This may be as simple as moving from your living room couch to your kitchen table. Just switch things up a little bit so that your brain is forced to pay more attention.
  • Read it out loud. Or have somebody else read it out loud, if you can. Listen to which parts make you stumble. Those are your problem areas.
  • Edit for somebody else. You’re more objective when editing for other people. Look at strengths and weaknesses in their writing. Then compare it to your writing. Are you struggling with the same things. Or are they really good at something you have a hard time with? Learn from them.
  • Refine your process. The more you edit, the more you know what works for you. You’ll get better the more you do it.

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What editing tricks have worked for you? Share in the comments!

Welcome to Publishing: Class Rules

In elementary school, one of the first things you did when starting a new school year was go over the class rules. These rules were usually pretty simple, but they did a lot to keep the class running smoothly. So in the back-to-school spirit, I’m going to be sharing the class rules for publishing.

  1. Be nice to everyone.
  2. Work hard.
  3. Be patient.
  4. Read as much as possible.
  5. Have fun!

Pretty simple, right? Of course there are other things you should do. But at the end of the day, I think these are the basics . They make a world of difference.

Publishing is a hard business to be in. There are a lot of people trying to get in and get published, so etiquette is important. As simple as these rules may be, they go a long way to keeping publishing afloat. The rules are there to help you too.

So stick to them and you’ll have a great year (and career)!

Knowing what your genre is

I recently did a round of #tenqueries and noticed that almost half of the queries I looked at had incorrectly labelled their genre. In fact, several of them made up genres that didn’t even exist.

If you’re having trouble deciding how to label your book, I suggest looking at Lara’s post on genre. This post had me practically screaming “Amen!” several times. I’ll add just a few points, though.

First, I’ll say that sometimes it is difficult to pin down your genre. In fact, I happen to be guilty of writing books that defy clear genre categorization. I also love reading genre-bending books like Veronica Rossi’s Under the Never Sky series (is it a fantasy, science fiction, romance, or dystopia? All of the above, I guess).

Comparative titles can help. I’m currently querying a book that takes place in a historical, made-up setting but includes no magical elements. I’ve talked to all sorts of people, trying to find out what to call that. Some suggested fantasy or non-magic fantasy. Others suggested alternate history or alternate world history. There was no agreement anywhere.

This left me in a predicament. However, I decided to use Jennifer Nielsen’s The False Prince and Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s Curse as comp titles. These books have similar settings to mine, which shows the agent reading the query that there is a market for these books and I know who my audience is. My comp titles helped me clarify what I meant when I said the book was an alternate history.

Second, you should be careful not to make up your own genre. I get a lot of people pitching their book as “fairy tale-retelling.” That’s not a genre. Fairy tale retellings can fall into any number of genres. For instance, Cinder, Damsel Distressed, and Princess of Glass are all YA Cinderella retellings. But they cover SciFi, Contemporary, and Fantasy respectively.

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These books are all YA fairy tale retellings. They are not all the same genre.

One final point before I wrap up. YA is not a genre. MG is not a genre. Those are audiences. When writing a query, you should specify your genre and category. For example, a YA historical fiction or MG fantasy. Leaving off one or the other will make it sound like you don’t understand your market.

If you’re still feeling a little lost, check out this genre map from Book Country.