Jeff O'Handley, Author

Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

Ah, December

This post is coming to you from the Department of the Top of My Head.

IN the sports world, when a team is struggling through a rough patch, every win is treated as something of great significance. “This game is could mark a turning point in the season,”  the broadcasters and beatwriters say. “They really needed this win.” It’s a narrative that fans seem to eat up, but coaches know that this last victory is only really significant if the team then goes out in their next game and gets another victory, if they build on the performance of the last game. If the team goes out and lays an egg in the next game, or drops five out of the next six, well, that ‘significant’ win doesn’t look so significant, does it?

Writing a NaNo is kind of like this. If you’ve managed to churn out 50,000+ words in the month of November on a novel, you deserve congratulations–it is a great achievement., one you can be proud of. The question now, however, is what are you going to do with it? This isn’t just aimed at your NaNo, but at your writing in general. What are you going to do with it now?

The answer, of course, depends in a large part on what your goals are for writing. Let’s assume, however, that you’re here on this blog because you’re like me, someone who likes to write, and someone who dreams that this writing thing can  turn into something–a published book (or 2 or 10), maybe a career, maybe even fame and fortune. If that’s the case, then what you do next is vital. You need to finish the book. You need to let the book rest. You need to go over it again and again, rewriting, revising, rethinking. You need to get it in the hands of people who aren’t going to just say, “My gosh, this is great!” because you’re their friend/son/wife/whatever, but people who are going to tell you what they really think. In short (not really), now that you’ve rushed your novel through the artificial growth chamber that is NaNo, you need to let it breathe, let it develop properly. The racing part is over. If you’re new to the writing thing, this is a good time to evaluate the process and figure out what really works for you as a writer.

Now, I will share two bits of news from my own front. First, I aimed at getting BARTON’S WOMEN query ready by the end of the month, and I think I’m actually there. Woot! Second, I have been informed that I have had a short story accepted by the fine folks at Elephant’s Bookshelf Press for inclusion in their winter anthology, due out in January, 2014. Double woot! How about you? Did you meet your goals for November? Did you NaNo, and if so, did you ‘win’?

14 Responses

  1. I wrote A Change of Plans and Torn Canvas both in a month. But they were really just very rough first drafts. I needed to rework them and flesh them out and do a LOT of editing. I couldn't imagine trying to publish a NaNo project right after I'd finished writing it. Serious gag! lol

  2. Congratulations on your short story!! It's so neat to see your work in print (whether paper or digital), isn't it?

    I had no goals in November and I didn't NaNo. Maybe if I had SET some goals, I'd be finished with my project, but November wasn't the month to do that. Maybe December. We'll see…

  3. Congratulations on the short story acceptance, sir. My only goals for November were to get everything I needed to get done completed. I managed that minimalist venture. I didn't NaNo this year. There isn't enough time or energy to squeeze out of my day between everything I'm involved in this year.

  4. I don't usually set goals in that way, either, but I really felt like this one was way past time being done. And thank you, it is quite nice to see your name in print.

  5. Thanks, Patrick. I think it's important to recognize that there are times where we just can't do everything. And getting done what you needed to get done is important.

  6. Great news, Jeff. Congrats!

    However, as a resident of Toronto required to be part of Leafs Nation, I would ask that you please refrain from sports metaphors about teams that can't seem to win. It hurts a lot. And all the time.

    Go Leafs g…. ah crap. Who am I foolin'.

  7. Thank you, Dan.

    Having experienced a blown 3-0 series lead and the infamous 2 goals in 17 seconds (oh, and there's still the 'too many men on the ice'), I can certainly relate.

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