This is a very broad question, and it’s one that I get asked all the time. So, here is a brief guide to the first steps you can take after completing that Nanowrimo novel (or other manuscript).
- Remember that publishing/writing is a slow process. Nothing is going to happen tomorrow.
- Let it rest.
Let the book sit around for at least a month before you go back to it. Let it chill out. You need to distance yourself from it a bit so you can look at objectively. Work on a new project. Research some of the steps below. Clean your house. Whatever you do, don’t open that document.
- Re-read the manuscript, making notes to yourself about things you want to change.
- Make the changes.
- Repeat steps 3-4 until you are either satisfied with the results, or concerned you are making the book worse. Take at least a couple of weeks off in between readings.
- Recruit trusted friends, preferably people who like to read in your genre, and ask them to read the book and provide feedback.
- Read the feedback. Do not make changes. Sit on those suggestions for at least a few days.
- Make the changes you feel need to be made based on the above suggestions.
- Research publishing paths. Do you want to be a traditionally published author? Or do you want the control of being self published? Or is working with a small press your bag? Research all of these things. Many authors provide first hand accounts of their process and why the chose that route. Look for blogs, tweet threads, podcasts or youtube videos on the subject. Consume them all until you feel confident in your decision.
- Put together your supplementary materials. No matter what path you take, you’re going to want a blurb (which is usually part of the query letter but also serves as your back cover copy), and a 1-2 sentence tagline/elevator pitch. If you are leaning toward traditional or small press publication, you’ll also need a query letter and a synopsis. The Writer’s Digest website has lots of great resources on how to craft both of these.
At this point, the paths diverge. If you are going to traditionally publish, you’ll be working on query materials, researching agents, etc. Those who chose self publishing will have to make decisions about editors, where they want their boo published and how, and a multitude of other things that are too broad for me to cover here.
Please keep in mind that these are just a general path to take. You might decide that the story doesn’t work at all, and you want to shelve it and try again next year. You might discover timeline problems that require a full rewrite of the last 2/3 of the novel. You might even decide that publishing just isn’t for you, and you just want to write for fun. All of these are valid. You don’t HAVE to publish. You don’t HAVE to submit a book just because you finished it. You might even decide that mentally and emotionally, you aren’t in a place to deal with criticism or rejection right now–and that’s okay. Do what is best and healthiest for you. Publishing, no matter the route you take, is a long process, it it can take a long time to develop a thick enough skin to deal with rejection. Are you read for your closest friends to tell you they don’t like your main character? Are you ready for dozens of agents to tell you your work isn’t marketable? Are you ready for editors to request full re-writes, only to reject your work? This is a hard business, and it gets harder every year. So before you move forward with any of the steps above, make sure you’re ready. You’ll grow a little bit with each move you make.
Like what you see? Check out The Writing Process, Part I: Introduction