You just finished a novel. Like, finish-finished. You wrote it. You edited it. You edited it again. You drank profusely. You gave yourself a 5-Hour-Energy-Drink enema. You cried into your pillow. Then you edited it one last time. And now — big deep breath — you’re done.
Exhale. Release the demons.
And now —
Elation! Freedom! A flock of happy chickadees alighting off the fencerail that is your heart.
But then —
There it is. The book. A brick. A big block of words and dead trees, or a garish white screen of 1s and 0s comprising your asstastic prose. Your gut sinks. Palms sweat. This thing? It might as well be a football helmet filled with diarrhea. It’s got nothing of value to offer to the world. It’s a tangled briar of gibberish. Nobody’s going to want to read it. The best thing they can do with it is to bludgeon Snooki to stop her from writing another novel. Best thing you can do for the book is crawl in a hole and die.
Deep breath again.
In. Out. Ahhhhh.
Unclench thine hindquarters. Stop pinching your nipples: they’ll turn to raisins and fall off. (True story. Where the hell do you think raisins come from? Dead grapes? Don’t believe the lies.)
Here’s the problem:
You’re overwhelmed by possibility. You’ve just taken a chompy bite out of your life, chewing off a goodly hunk of months — maybe even years — and then spat that time and effort up in front of you. Hrrrgh-ptoo! This story is important to you. It matters. You want to do the right thing. You want to put it out there. And here it is, done. Ready to rock out with its proverbial you-know-what out. But with that realization comes a tide of triumph coupled with fear (like a fine wine paired with a quivering adrenal gland tumor).
The problem is, you don’t know what’s next.
You’ve asked yourself the question, “What Now?” and you have come up wanting.
That’s okay. Let me help. Let me stroke your hair. Let me whisper secret truths in your ear. I mean, sure, I actually don’t know cat shit from Captain Crunch, but somehow I’ve managed to convince you people that I know what the hell I’m talking about, so we might as well continue the scheme.
November, we talked about writing the book.
December, we talked up editing that sumbitch.
And now, January, it’s time to figure out what to do next.
Welcome to the month of “What Now?”
We’ll talk more about agents and publishing. I’ll chat (maybe tomorrow) a little about an author’s so-called “platform.” You’ll see some posts concentrating on both the writer’s life and the lifecycle of your novel.
For now, I’ll just say:
You did good.
But the work ain’t done.
If you have specific questions, feel free to expectorate them into the comments below — otherwise, just sit back and relax. I’ve got the wheel. And a bottle of Tito’s vodka. Let’s roll.