With the excitement of NaNoWriMo firmly grasping authors everywhere, it’s easy to forget that there are newcomers each year who are still a little perplexed by the whole process. The concept of writing the actual 50,000-word novel is already daunting enough, but then the notion of what to do with it when finished is somewhat harder.
The first thing to remember about NaNo is that yes, it’s technically a contest, but you’re only competing against yourself. Well, and the calendar, and possibly your boss if you’re trying to sneak in a few thousand words while on the job. As for “winning” the event, everyone who manages to complete the full scope of the project is declared a winner.
There are a few “winner” goodies that are only open to the writers who complete a verified novel, which means they submit their document on the website for word count verification prior to November 30th. Some authors have expressed unfounded concerns over the years about submitting their masterpieces, but rest assured, the team at NaNo is not downloading or keeping the novel and therefore it is still perfectly safe and perfectly yours. You’re only verifying the amount of content, not publishing it.
The aforementioned rewards over the years have included things like discounts from various firms that offer author services, free copies of Scrivener writing software, coupon codes for formatting templates, year-long memberships in different authoring and publishing platforms, and more. There is no drawing or competition to receive these; they are the hard-earned prizes for everyone who finishes.
But what does that mean for your book? It means you’ve got the very raw beginnings of a potentially publishable novel. That might not sound very reassuring, but it is something to take to heart as sound truth. The newly-minted novel is by no means ready for publication. It has months and months of re-reads, self-editing, professional editing, and proofreading ahead of it before it is even close to being ready for querying to agents or publishing on your own.
Whatever you choose to do with your novel–or your I-got-started-and-then-life-got-in-the-way first few chapters–rest assured that you’ve got something useful in your hands, something that you should be proud of and can possibly take to the next level.