One September about a decade ago, I learned of National Novel Writing Month, commonly known as NaNoWriMo. Many of us have attempted to write 50,000 words in a month during that challenge, and it remains a popular and useful event. When I finally “won” after several failed attempts, I was thrilled, and more than a little stunned.
And then came the inevitable question, what do I do now?
Short answer: I did nothing. I was too embarrassed to read those words again. I lacked the confidence to face them and wrangle them into something better. And I didn’t know where to begin or who to ask.
And so they went into a drawer. As did the winning manuscripts for the next few years.
Five years ago I joined the local Austin, Texas, group of NaNoWriMo participants. This chapter was a unicorn among chapters, and the “MLs” (Municipal Liaisons) went well above the basic cheerleading to get you 1667 words every day. They held seminars to help writers think beyond November and help you understand it was possible to publish. They hosted silent retreats at picturesque local locations to inspire creativity, kept it fun with midnight costume parties to kick off the month with a bang, and kept writing groups going year round.
It was a very non-threatening way to ask my stupid questions. I learned what a developmental editor was. What a line editor did, and what a copy editor did not do. I learned that a first draft is a win for NaNoWriMo, but also the first of many steps to seeing your darling words come to life. I got over myself and found editors totake those embarrassing, horrible manuscripts and help me polish them into something I can be proud of… and publish.
We’ve poured those lessons and many more into this month’s issue. For those experienced and published authors, you’ll learn how to improve how you work with your team. If you’re just starting out and have yet to finish your draft, you’ll learn what mistakes to avoid.
No one journeys up the mountain of success alone. Every successful writer I’ve met has a team, and many credit their editor(s) as being the key person who helped them the most.
Dig out those dusty manuscripts and dive into this month’s issue. Then find the editor you need to make them shine.