Please Don’t Send Your NaNoWriMo Manuscript to Agents

NaNoWriMo manuscriptIt’s December 1, and for a lot of writers out there, including myself, that means NaNoWriMo is over. Did you do it? Did you hit your goal? I made it across the finish line mid-day yesterday, just in time. For everyone else who did (and even for those who gave it their best shot) I’m sending a big old buddha-fist-bump your way. Eff-yeah! You did it! You should do something to celebrate: go out for drinks, get a massage, buy yourself a tub of cookie dough ice cream and go to town. The one thing you should not do, under any circumstances, is send your NaNoWriMo manuscript to agents.


I’m kind of surprised this even needs saying, but apparently there is a whole contingent out there who slap out 50,000 words and start querying agents. WTF?

First of all, 50,000 isn’t even long enough to be considered a proper novel. And never mind that, you’re sending a first draft to an agent? I don’t even let my husband read my first drafts. First drafts are supposed to be shitty. And they are. Count on it.

Okay, okay, I’m sure you’re the exception. I’m sure that you are so brilliant that an agent will totally overlook the typos and inconsistencies in your writing. I’m sure they will be so enamored of your pages and pages of dialogue that they won’t be able to sleep and will sit by the phone until it’s 8am and they can reasonably expect you to be awake so that they can call you and beg you to be their client.

I’m also sure you’re insane.

Please, please don’t send your NaNoWriMo manuscript to agents. It’s not only embarrassing for you, it builds a bad reputation for every serious writer who used the NaNoWriMo challenge to kick off an earnest writing project.

Here’s what to do instead:

  1. Keep writing (until you get to about 80,000, depending on your genre – check out Christine Frazier’s free word count guide to see what the standards are in your chosen genre.).
  2. Then stick it in a drawer for about three months and do something else.
  3. Come back and read it through.
  4. Edit. A lot.
  5. Have some trusted friends read it. 
  6. Edit some more.
  7. Stick it in a drawer for another three months.
  8. Read it again.
  9. Edit again.
  10. Repeat steps 5-9 as necessary
  11. Hire a professional editor to do a final pass.

Then start sending out your query letter.

Or don’t do all that. There’s no law that dictates what you have to do with your 50,000 words. You could serialize them on your blog, or self publish, or make yourself a suit by stapling the pages together then use the remaining pages to make a paper mache hat to match. It’s your art.

But if you want to go the traditional route of finding an agent and a subsequent publisher, you still have a lot of work to do.

Personally, I intend to follow that list shot for shot. I am super proud of myself for hitting the 50,000 word mark, and I figure I have at least another 30,000 words to go, if not 40 or 50,000. And when I get there, I’ll stick it in a drawer, and use the time to finish the final edit on my first novel.

Writing is work. To pretend it isn’t is insulting to us all.

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