I love writing. I also love that people love writing. The whole reason I started this blog was because I had lots of ideas about writing and from my experiences in talking to others about writing, realised that I also loved helping people with theirs. Sure, it’s not quite as effective as it would be in person, but if Fictioner’s Net hits upon even a single percent of what I do in person, I figure that’s a good thing.
As someone who’s so often in that position, one of the most encouraging things is to see people’s enthusiasm for what they’re doing, the world’s they’re exploring and the joy that they derive from the process of writing.
But holy hell, put a lid on it.
I’m not going to say my way is the best way, but sending out your novel, draft, what-have-you the second it’s been written is THE WORST. STOP IT. YOU ARE RUINING IT FOR EVERYBODY ELSE.
This year I repeated last year’s responsibility of being a Municipal Liaison for Sydney during NaNoWriMo (albeit with a lot more delegating than I had the opportunity to do last year), and through the many discussions on our Facebook group, one particular topic had a lot of opinions. Some people had heard that NaNoWriMo had become a dirty word to publishers, agents and basically anyone involved in the industry. While others disputed the statement, I’ll admit I’ve heard about the dread that post-NaNo December fills some with due to the avalanche of slush pushing through to the slushpile.
One of the clear messages that both sides of the discussion agreed on, was you don’t just write and send.
A few weeks ago I had the inordinate pleasure of attending the Most Underrated Book Awards in Sydney, and as mentioned elsewhere on the site, was also lucky enough to be invited to be a judge for the awards. Each of the judges read through a shortlist, and each came to their decision in a rather unanimous way. Jane Rawson was the author who received the nod on the night for her novel, A Wrong Turn at the Office of Unmade Lists, and I spoke to her briefly. Interestingly enough, Jane told me that her novel started life as a NaNo novel, and had been worked on much beyond that initial writing blitz.
Somehow I also met an agent while at the Awards, spoke to her a little about what I was working on, my process and all that, and with full disclosure, told her the novel I was working on (For More Than Earthly Ends) began life as a NaNo novel. It didn’t strike her as a problem because I’d been very clear about November 30 not being an endpoint. Also, for the record, I didn’t come anywhere near completing NaNo this year, however I did get some great scenes for the bits and pieces I was working on, so that’s still a win to me.
Anyhow, have to repeat the point again – That 50K (or really, whatever your goal is) is not your finish line.
If you haven’t read your own novel from start to finish, you shouldn’t expect anyone else to. Sure, you’ve just written it and probably can’t judge it dispassionately yourself. It’s either going to see way worse than it is because it won’t match the level of excitement you have, or it’s going to seem so much better than the reality of it because your excitement is going to fill in the gaps with every bit of the story that’s still in your head and not on the page.
You need a break first. Once it’s finished, take a bloody break. You’ve actually earned one!
Look, I understand what it’s like. The first year I did NaNo, I was sending out bits and pieces to friends because I wanted to share what I was doing. Even worse, they were encouraging me, begging me to finish the next bit. That excitement is hard to match, but you know what? That doesn’t translate to it being READY for publication. You want to send it to editors or agents or publishers straight away? Fine, but READ the bloody thing first.
If you’re not willing to read it, how can you prove you’d be willing to work on it? You don’t want to work on it because you’re bored of it? IMAGINE HOW BORED THE READERS WILL BE!
Today’s the first of December. How about you not give the rest of people working on a novel a bad name by doing something shitty like sending out your goddamned first draft.
By all means, get input. Have some trusted friends as a test audience – trusted because they will tell you when it’s not working or when you should give up on writing forever because their eyes and souls are bleeding – but read it until you want to pull it apart and fix everything you forgot you wrote. So yeah, MAYBE wait a day. Hell, wait a month. If it’s that good, it’ll keep. You only have one chance to make a first impression so at the very least, be aware of what you’re using to make that impression.
Let’s make December International Don’t Be A Selfish Ass Month. IndoBeASeAsMo. Alright, the name needs work, probably because IT’S JUST THE FIRST DRAFT.