Welp, here it is, the first day of December. Go on, you can freak out for a minute…it's okay.
Finished? Good. Moving on, then.
What today means (besides only having 30 days left in the whole of 2014) is that NaNoWriMo is over, and if you were participating, you should have a grand total of 50k+ shiny new words on a project. Now, what to do with those shiny new words?
Well, add more to them, first of all. 50k words really doth not a novel make, so you'll need to fix that. And speaking of fixing, after you get that count up to somewhere in the 80k range (for an adult novel – YA can be a bit less), now you LET IT SIT for a good long while. Six weeks, say. That's what Stephen King does when he finishes something – he puts it in a drawer for a month and a half.
I know, I know. I hear you now. It's your baby. You can't leave it. It's cruel to leave a newborn out to fend for itself! It can't-
Let me tell you something about that newborn manuscript. It's not an infant. It's a fucking egg. It needs time to develop before it hatches, so make like a birdie (or a platypus, if you want to be an egg-laying mammal) and sit on it for awhile. Magic things are happening while it's under your feathery ass. When it's time for it to hatch, that is when you bring it food and watch it grow and tend to it until it's ready to leave the nest.
Note that: tend to it until it's ready to leave the nest.
Translation: revise the ever-loving hell out of it before inflicting it on others.
Now, some eggs are bad. Some eggs don't hatch. And we all know the old saying about how "you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs." What does all this mean?
Well, just what it says. Some things you write aren't good and should be thrown at asshats who cruise through your neighborhood at 3AM with their bass up so loud it deregulates your heart rhythm. Some things you write just aren't quite there yet and need more help to grow, so put them in the incubator (called "trunking" – all writers have a trunk novel or ten) and maybe come back in a year and see if they're ready to hatch. And the other thing? Yeah. Sometimes in order to write something good, you have to write a bunch of crap that's not. In fact, that's how it usually works.
Writing is a ladder, and we all start at the bottom. No one – no, not even Big Name Writer of Brilliance – started out at the top. Some might have climbed a little faster than others, and some may be stuck at a particular spot, but the trick is to keep climbing. Even when it hurts. Even when you're so tired and it feels like you're not making progress. Even when you've slipped down a few rungs. Hell, a lot of writers slip all the way back to the bottom and have to start over, and the ones that do are the ones that make it. Why?
Because they don't give up. Perseverance is the key to success, but there's a line between perseverance and pesterage. There's determination and there's desperation.
Now, I'm not saying "know when to quit." I'm not the fucking Gambler over here (aaaaaand I just showed my age….). I never advocate quitting. What I do advocate is reevaluation. If something repeatedly isn't working, it might be time to ask why that is instead of trying to force it to. It doesn't do any good to smack a TV that isn't plugged in and expect it to work. What's that thing about the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results? I've talked about that here before – if all your rejections say the same thing, it might be time to look to what they're addressing. If you're getting nothing but rejections, it might be time to take a look at your query letter.
And if you make changes and nothing happens, well…it might be time to set that one aside and move on to something else. Because you're a writer, and there is always another project. Yes, even if you feel like there isn't.
So, once you've finished that NaNo novel, put it away and look at it again next year. February will be here before you know it.