National Novel Writing Month (also known as NaNoWriMo or NaNo) is where millions of authors come together to pound out a novel of at least 50,000 words. It’s a crazy time for authors published or not to put together their next book. I’m not immune to the attraction of writing 1667 words a day to make the bare minimum required to get the certificate, but you cannot submit or publish your NaNo project until you’ve done a lot of editing.

First, I am a NaNo participant. I joined the madness in 2005 and continued every year until 2011, took a break and then came back in 2013 to 2014. All eight years were winners for me. Six of those books have been published (Softly Say Goodbye, Take Chances, The Wrong One, Evil Eyes, Canoples Investigations Tackles Space Pirates, and The Curse of Grungy Gulley) and a seventh will be published at the end of February (Lost & Scared). What I learned the hard way is that a NaNo completion is only the beginning.

What do you do after November 30, when you have that freshly minted completion certificate in hand? First, unless your book is haunting your every waking and sleeping minute, put it to the side for a few weeks. If you can’t do that, if you are experiencing moments of “I must change this, that, or the other thing, then by all means start the process of going over your book with a fine tooth comb. Depending on how much time you have to devote to your book, this process of revisions can take anywhere from a couple of months to several years.

But you’re impatient. The NaNo website said your book was done. Why do you have to wait to publish it?

Very good question. Why wait to publish? NaNo offers you the opportunity to publish your novel within days of finishing it. Why not take advantage of that? Or you’ve been eyeing this indie publisher for months and this book is the perfect opportunity for you to get your foot in the door.

Why wait to publish? Excellent question. One you should think about seriously. Thousands of books are uploaded to Amazon weekly. You’re in competition with those authors, so you have to put your best foot forward. The reality is that you have a very rough draft of what may or may not be a best selling book. There are things to research that you didn’t have time to do during the madness of November. You have dangling plot points, and characters who are one dimensional. Basically, you have an outline of a book that needs a great deal of fleshing out to be good.

That indie publisher you’ve been eyeing isn’t going to appreciate seeing your NaNo project fresh from the win. In fact, publishers everywhere dread seeing submissions from NaNo during December and January, because most aren’t ready to be let out of the author’s computer let alone submitted. Most of a NaNo book is telling rather than showing, and I’m as guilty of that as most NaNo authors. You need the time to change those dull paragraphs of narrative into interesting exposition of a well-written book. So, unless you’re willing to devote upward of 15 hours a day working your NaNo novel for two months, then it’s time for you to get out the red pen and dive into work.

As with any work you want seriously considered, the NaNoWriMo project requires a great deal of your attention to get it right. After all, you wouldn’t serve a meal half cooked, or say your new tires don’t need air to drive on them. Would you? Why send out a novel you’ve worked hard to get into a first draft into the world until it’s been thoroughly vetted for each and every improvement you can make.