After digesting the comments, cleaning three closets, baking two batches of cookies and a cake, I read the first two books in the series (they are REALLY GOOD! Surprise!) and noted some minor inconsistencies I — oops — need to correct and explain in this book. I have taken one Big Comment about the beginning, and been working on that all week. I think I am much closer, maybe only nit-picks away from moving on. I don’t think anything else I need to do is as complicated as writing a good first chapter in a series book. We’ll see when I get further on. Planting seeds for Book Four, about which I have as yet no idea, isn’t going to be easy.
The NaNo format is not far off from my natural process — I write intensively, in spurts — but the specific NaNo format allows for no pauses, racing at breakneck speed until one reaches either the Magic Number or the End of the Draft, whichever comes first. Now, NaNo is over, you’re exhausted and you have crashed with your manuscript saved to a flash drive, your hard drive and the Cloud — but in truth you’ve only just begun. You can’t keep up that pace forever. You must do laundry someday. You must learn to work with the pauses.
Life goes on, and writing isn’t something you just do for a month, is it? Writers write, don’t they? Writers also have to pay their bills, go to the store, clean their houses, play with their children, enjoy their spouses, work in their gardens, have social lives — because writers do write, but they also have to live. Work with the pauses, because being a writer is not just part of your life, it is your life.
If you did NaNo, you’re looking at the first draft of a first draft if you’re lucky. It’s rested a while — we hope not in some agent’s slush pile to be unceremoniously dumped in February, unread — and it’s time to pick it up again. You’ve had a break. It’s time to get back to work. Set a date to sit back down at the computer. Pick a few days before that to actually read your manuscript, on paper if you can, with a critical eye. Starting today, collect a handful of favorite books in your genre, by different authors, and start reading them. Enjoy these books. Don’t force insight, but things you can do better in your work will become obvious. Note them, but don’t dive back into your manuscript until your scheduled day. Reading others, reading your own and diving into a rewrite, as planned and scheduled as your next dentist appointment, are your next three steps.
If you have things on your calendar, plan them into to your writing work schedule so they coincide with a rest between drafts, or while the manuscript is out for Beta reads, or editing, or copyediting, or cover design, or galley proofs. Plan your weeks so you have time for family, for activities, for the general work of living. Plan specifically so you have sest times for writing, and set deadlines and schedules so you can take your breaks without them breaking you.
Let the pauses, planned, intrusive and spontaneous, work with you. Let your life work with you. If you are a writer you must learn to write and live. Plans, schedules and deadlines will help you do that.
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