Last week, five published NaNoWriMo authors shared their insight about getting started with your own 50,000-word novel. One week (and 5,000 cups of coffee) into NaNo, we invited our panel of veteran storytellers to share some concrete advice about finding an audience for your project.
No matter where your word count stands currently, or even if you’re just cheering from the sidelines, join us for another round of tips, cheers, and inspiration.
Let’s meet, once again, our enterprising panelists:
- Kristi Petersen Schoonover, whose work of dark fiction, Bad Apple (2012), was published by Vagabondage Press.
- Jennifer Bresnick, author of epic fantasy novels The Last Death of Tev Chrisini (2012) and The Spoil of Zanuth-Karun (2013), both self-published by Aenetlif Press.
- John Palisano, the novelist-screenwriter-songwriter behind dark fiction/horror novel Nerves (2012), published by Bad Moon Books.
- Keris Stainton, whose young adult romance novels, Jessie Hearts NYC (2011) and Emma Hearts LA (2012) were published by Orchard Books.
- Harry Heckel, a dark fantasy author whose three books, In the Service of the King (2012), Souls of the Everwood (2012), and Balefire and Brimstone (2013) were all published by Blue Oranda Publishing.
You’ve typed your way through November and met your word count goal; what’s next?
Harry: I celebrate December by leaving my novel alone. I offer up my book to a circle of readers to find out what they think of the novel.
Kristi: NaNo gives you the raw material. When it’s over, get serious and really get to work.
What can writers do to get a NaNo novel published?
Jennifer: Put your novel aside for a few weeks, so you can breathe a bit, feed the kids, and get some perspective.
Keris: Re–read it!
Kristi: Work with a critique group for further polish.
Jennifer: Edit the heck out of it. Really. No first draft is perfect.
Harry: Do a loose outline considering the feedback received, and start rewriting.
John: Get your grammar and style tight.
Harry: Flesh out scenes, and cut material that you don’t need.
Kristi: Get it critiqued a third time, and consider hiring an editor.
Keris: Follow the standard guidelines for querying agents and publishers.
John: Never give up. It can be heartbreaking and gut-wrenching, but wait to publish well, if you can.
Do you have any advice on self-publishing versus traditional publishing houses?
Jennifer: I’m a self-publisher, and I would certainly recommend that route if you think you have the time and commitment to pursue it.
John: There’s a big quotient of luck involved concerning traditional, advance-paying publishing. Of course, there’s been a massive run with self-published works.
It’s a great distribution outlet; if you go that route, get your book edited the best you can, and get a professional cover. It makes a difference.
Kristi: The first time I did NaNo back in 2004, there were nowhere near the options we have today. Self-publishing was still frowned upon, and there weren’t many small houses about.
Now, there really isn’t a reason for anyone participating in NaNo to not bother with following through.
Harry: I write fantasy and science-fiction, so I need to have around 90,000 words to sell a book to a major publisher. However, there are a number of opportunities with small indie press publishers to have a 50,000-word fantasy novel published.
Don’t let rejections discourage you. I think the best therapy for stress caused by waiting for publication is to write another novel.
Kristi’s list of blog features for writers:
- The Publicize feature. It’s cut my marketing time in half.
- The Contact Form template. People who want to find me love this feature.
- The Follow Blog Widget, which is easier for most people than signing up for an RSS feed.
- The Facebook Like Box and Twitter Timeline Widget, because I know people who have visited my site have started following me elsewhere.
- The Image Widgets, because I can link them to other sites and projects I’m working on with big, eye-catching art.
- The Sharing Buttons on all the posts.
Can blogging contribute to the NaNoWriMo experience?
Keris: I know people may think there’s enough writing during NaNo without adding blogging too, but it does help to focus your mind.
Plus, at the end of the month, when you’ve got — to your surprise — a finished novel, you’ll also have a record of how you did it.
Harry: I believe that blogging about the process definitely helps. Lots of writers blog about the month, relaying their experiences or posting what they’ve written.
Not only does posting give friends a chance to encourage you, but in a way, knowing that you need to blog keeps you motivated.
Jennifer: I love blogging about my NaNoWriMo experience because it helps me connect with other writers going through the same agonies and triumphs.
Community support is a huge feature of the program, so whether you’re chatting with fellow enthusiasts on the NaNo forums, or taking the challenge home to your own blog, the opportunities for inspiration and commiseration are priceless.
John: Sometimes writing about what you’re writing gives you just that much more responsibility. People are following your progress. They want an end to the story of you writing your story.
I need to re-write several times before my stuff is print-worthy, and I’m not about to share first drafts. But I do talk about the roadmaps, speed bumps, and glorious straightaways that happen.
Kristi: Tell your readers this is your challenge, and they can follow your progress. Share the lessons you learn about your writing — and yourself — through your NaNo journey.
Are there any particular blogging features you’ve found helpful when it comes to promoting your work?
Jennifer: Having an internet presence as an author is absolutely essential. Learning a bit of search engine optimization (SEO) is easy with tags and categories, and it’s incredibly valuable when it comes to getting your name out there.
You need to make it as simple as possible for potential readers to find you, buy your work, and tell you how much they like it.
Also, a big feature is people following your blog. There’s a whole community out there, which is remarkable. I’ve only just begun tapping into it, but there’s another world.
Harry: When I started my site, I really liked how WordPress.com allowed me to redirect to my own domain name, and I love the themes because they let me have a great-looking website with minimal effort on my part.
I enjoy having the ability to update my site from anywhere with multiple mobile devices.
Finally, for myself, I love checking the traffic on my site and viewing the history. I’m not sure if that really helps, but I find it motivational (and fun).
Any final words for the remaining weeks of this writing marathon?
John: Looking back on it, NaNoWriMo has afforded me a safe place to fail.
I don’t have to necessarily produce something I’m going to aim to publish, although that did happen with Nerves. Several of my books have just been for me. It’s a great and safe place for me.
Kristi: I wouldn’t be as prolific today if I hadn’t been through the fires of NaNo. I learned how to write amidst distraction, turn off my inner editor, and better appreciate my own productivity.
Keris: Perhaps Stephen King bashed a novel out in a week and it was perfect. But I doubt it. First you need to let them rest a bit. After a month of frenetic writing, you’ll be glad for the rest yourself.
Thank you for sharing your veterans’ wisdom with us!
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