NaNoWriMo 2016 was different this year. The background to this began about eighteen months ago when I started writing the first draft of a novel called The Clockmaker Conspiracy. I continued with subsequent drafts until the beginning of 2016 and then paused, unsure of what to do next. I hoped I could write a series of books based around the characters and the world I created so set to work on book two. By June a couple of drafts were complete and book one had been passed to an editor. The plan was to bring book one to a finished state that could then be passed to agents.
I paused again. I recalled a piece of advice from a published author, which stated I shouldn’t think about securing an agent until I had three novels edited and completed. The thinking behind this is many writers are unprepared for being signed and for the subsequent pressure of deadlines to produce a second and third book. Having a cushion behind you and the knowledge you survived the editorial process three times will stand you in good stead. The publisher may not be initially enthusiastic over material you have, but you have something to work with rather than start from scratch.
It’s probably true that the reality of a publishing deal is never what you imagine it to be and after the initial excitement and euphoria, the fact you have to sit down and do it all again can be daunting. That is obvious, but it’s worth taking time to think about. You will more than likely have to write to a deadline set by someone else. You manage to submit, but there is a chance your writing may be considered unsuitable. It’s unlikely you have made enough money to give up the day job so the rewrites will have to be fitted around your life as it is. One of the joys of being unpublished is you set the deadlines and write in relation to getting on with your life. Once you are signed it will be different. The trend appears to be producing a book a year. If you’re work rate is falling short of that I would question yourself why and start preparing for it now. Writing for publication is not a part-time activity.
As book one was completed to a state I would be happy to self-publish, book two was reaching the point of being passed over for editing. By this time I was keen to expand my series to seven books (why seven is another story). I knew from my notes I had a third book in me to resolve the plot and complete a trilogy. By the end of October I had ten thousand words to rewrite of book two and was outlining ideas for a book, which would follow on, but expand the plot further without padding the story for the sake of it. What started to nag me was, could I push through and produce a third novel, which didn’t rely on the material I had? The idea of finding out took over and come the first of November I started drafting book three. Good news is I only used part of the outline I prepared and went into free-fall for the bulk of it. This has left me with further material to work into book four. The draft took twenty-two days and I confirmed I could go beyond a trilogy. I was advised to ensure each book resolves itself and not leave it on a cliffhanger so I stuck with this and finished the draft with a satisfactory conclusion.
The plan is to have book two finished for January 2017 and pass over for editing and then write up book three. By then I will be in the frame of mind for approaching agents and understanding the process involved. My goal for now is to write and to finish what I’ve started. In my mind I can now see seven books in this series and maintaining my work rate is key here, not only for my personal goals for the series, but also in preparation for approaching the business professionally. I want to be as prepared as I can for submitting to agencies or taking the Amazon route during 2017.
I noted at the start of this post that NaNoWriMo was different this year. I’ve participated a couple of times (I don’t sign up and register, it’s not for me), so I was confident of finishing. What was different was the ease I slipped into it with a brief outline and the deliberate goal of seeing whether the result would mean an end to this project or a new beginning for it. The process also made me realise that if I didn’t work full-time or gave up my job to write full-time, I couldn’t have written any more than I did. It’s often remarked that writers don’t find time to write, they make time to write and I believe this is true.
To conclude, you will read the advice that you should put the initial draft away and come back to it months later with a fresh pair of eyes. That may work for you and if so that’s great, but it’s the last thing I do. I forget what I write and I want to see what’s happening so I get stuck in and start to plan and tinker with it in preparation for the proper rewrite when I’m ready. Remember, if you are signed up, are you going to be allowed the luxury of drafting a novel and then putting it away for months? I doubt it.
All the best with whatever you are up to and if you are writing don’t take Hemingway’s quote about the first draft of anything is shit to heart. I like my first draft and I’m pleased with having finished it. It reads like shit, but I can fix that.