Many of us here at the Evil League love NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Every year (or as often as possible) we join the thousands and thousands of people around the world who have all committed to writing 50,000 words toward a novel in the month of November. It’s an awesome thing.
But it’s very different once you are beholden to a publisher (especially digital first/only publishers…due to their tighter timelines).
I’m not talking about being beholden to them for the book you’re writing during NaNo. Noooooo… I mean being beholden to them for the one you turn in a week or two before NaNo so that you can focus on your new, shiny best friend for all of November. Because you know what happens?
You get edits…in November.
For the last few years, I’ve desperately tried to figure out how to NaNo without switching gears all the time, and I’ve reached the conclusion that I just can’t unless I narrow down to doing one or two books with a publisher per year (and get them timed right). Last year I think I had two different early rounds of edits during November. (I think on the same book) The year before I think I had copy edits and a galley on one and first round edits on another.
Please note, I am not complaining. I love my job. I have the best damn job in the world.
What I am saying is that contracts will complicate things that you once thought were simple. NaNoWriMo is just one example. Vacations? Better make sure your editor(s) know about those well in advance, and if you’re lucky they’ll plan so you can have your week or two off. Holidays? What are those again? Oh yeah, the days you spend with family to sit up all night long doing the work you couldn’t get done during the day because you were with family. (Actually–most editors that I’ve had don’t give tight deadlines around major holidays, but I still remember having first round edits one year over Christmas…while I was also down with severe bronchitis.)
That’s right. No sick days either.
What this means for the professional author is you have to plan for contingencies. I have a book due on Thursday that was probably the tightest write-a-novel deadline I’ve ever had, but it was one I agreed to. When I said I could have it by the fifteenth, it looked like a cake job. And then I got sick. And then I got really sick. I had about a month to draft this book and shiny it up for my editor. I hadn’t accounted for being sick as a dog two weeks out of that month. (Or having family stuff hit out of nowhere.) So I spent last week scrambling. I’ll make deadline (or damn close), but it wasn’t a definite thing, and that’s totally on me because I didn’t account for trouble.
So, if you’re doing NaNo this year, don’t think just in terms of 1667 words per day. Think about the way you adapt when you miss a day (or seven) for whatever reason. Think about how much it stresses you out (or doesn’t). Figure out strategies. Use NaNo for more than just words. Use it to figure out how to become an author, not just a writer.
As for me, I have to go spit-shine a sex scene. (Trust me, it’s more fun than it sounds like.)