Notes from the Armchair #5

By Laura Zats

Congratulations, everyone! You made it! You have survived NaNoWriMo 2013. And you have hung around with us in the meantime, waiting to see how it is we deal with those funny letters in our NaNo alphabet! Thank you. It was truly a labor of love for us to share this experience with you, and no, we don’t want to think about it again until June.

Some of you have pumped out 50,000 words this month. Some of you have even finished an entire draft of a book. Some of you haven’t, but any progress makes you a few steps closer to completing your first (or 10th) baby.

If writers’ tweets are anything to judge by, many people who attempted NaNo (or those just trying to write at all) are going to keep pushing until they’ve finished whatever they’ve started. A first draft. A fifteenth draft. A series. Whatever. Others (and, let’s be honest, most of you) are just going to throw your NaNo MS into a digital drawer deep in the depths of your computer, hoping that you’ll never have to think of it ever again. In fact, I think that’s a good plan. Let it sit. Let the godawful words of your first draft go stale before you kill them off without a second thought, replacing them with something better. Let the resolution to the story’s main conflict marinate in your brain, untangling the knots you accidentally tied yourself in during your first outline. 

But here’s what I also think is a good idea: in a few months, or even in a few years, come back to it. Come back to your MS, because even when you pen those final fateful words, “The End,” and the excruciatingly pleasurable hell that is National Novel Writing Month draws to a close, your book’s journey is not over. You have just birthed something beautiful (in the way splotchy, red newborn babies are beautiful—conceptually, but not in reality), but it needs to grow up. Rebel against you, drive you to tears of frustration, and finally, of awe.

It might feel like a horrible idea now, thinking of investing months and maybe even years on this project that you both love and hate (the latter more than the former most days). But if your goal is to publish (not just write), you need to keep in mind that “The End” is not really an end. It’s not even across the street and down the block from where you started.

For the past month or two, I’ve been what I like to call a secret agent (call me Zats, Laura Zats), an unofficial, un-announced agent casually (and secretly!) looking for authors who have moved past “The End” and are looking for another beginning. In four outstanding bouts of luck, I’ve found the first members of the Armchair contingent of Red Sofa:

First, I found the brilliant and deliciously humble Laura Mathis (AKA Head Bitch @BPBTY) who heads up the hilarious and extraordinarily helpful etiquette blog She is self-described as Miss Manners—with cocktails, and I couldn’t have phrased it better myself.

Following the trend that my side of the Sofa would be Team Laura in more ways than one, I convinced a veritable Young Adult goddess, Laura Renegar (@LauraRenegar), to sign with me. And I’m pretty sure that if we all follow her on Twitter, she’ll share some of her tips for writing great dream sequences, and most importantly, post pictures of her adorable, brand-new puppy. Wins all around!

Still keeping in the Ls, another YA author, Lisa Sills (@jambomeanshello) does not only make me starstruck, but continues to bowl me over every time I think about the sheer volume of work she has produced. Even though she doesn’t always participate in NaNo, Lisa writes about two books a year (usually the first draft takes only a few weeks), and has every year since she was eleven. I think it’s safe to say that she’s the NaNo Queen.

Finally, and for a little variety on the naming front, New Adult author Molly Pinto Madigan (@MPintoMadigan) is a soulful folksinger and an expert on old ballads. This is cool in and of itself, but she weaves it into her writing, making it eerily familiar and completely foreign at the same time. Molly also has a piece in a Fairy Tale anthology coming out early next year with Belladonna Publishing.

In the coming months and years, I look forward to helping these amazing authors (and hopefully several others) add some more (figurative, but also sometimes literal) chapters to the books that already have “The End” spelled out. The end of NaNo, just like the end of a book, is just an opportunity for a wonderful new beginning.

What’s your new chapter going to look like?