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Monday, November 9, 2015

From NaNoWriMo to Published: The story of HIDDEN IN SEALSKIN by Thea van Diepen

I have a secret to tell you: Hidden in Sealskin was written during Camp NaNoWriMo.

I know, right? Who in their right minds would do something like that?

Well, besides me.

Surviving NaNo (with a First Draft to Show for It!)

The first time I did Camp NaNo (writing Hidden in Sealskin in 2012 was my second time), I’d used the experience to figure out my writing speed: 500 words per hour on a slow day, 1,000 per hour on a fast day. Thus, I knew how much time to dedicate each day to writing—3 hrs at most, 1.5 hrs at the least.

This calculation is vital for me, and also the reason I’ve only ever done Camp NaNo before this year. Trying to do university and work and NaNo in November would be too much, and I knew it because I had the numbers to prove it.

After that, it was a matter of writing every day.

This is where I let you in on another secret: I didn’t stay caught up the whole month.

The point, for me, wasn’t being perfectly on top of things. I knew that, some days, that simply wasn’t possible. So long as I made progress towards my destination every day and arrived there on time, it would work.

Like a race, the goal of NaNo is not to make each step utterly perfect, but to keep the end in mind and aim for that.

For me, that meant having an outline ahead of time, giving myself the time I needed to write each day, and catching up when I fell behind. Some people don’t need the first on that list, but the other two are essential. No-one is going to remind you to write each day. You have to do it yourself.

Which is what makes it so worth it.

Editing the Aftermath

The manuscript I was left with afterwards needed a lot of editing. Which freaked me out, so it wasn’t until this year that I actually got to it and didn’t stop until I was done.

Which is another point to keep in mind: stuff takes time. Don’t let that throw you.

Even if you’re a verified genius, your NaNo first draft will not be ready for publication as-is. With Hidden in Sealskin, I had to chop out chapters, characters, scenes, lines of dialogues—everything you could think that might get chopped got chopped. New things got added, too, like the beginning, the complete reworking of the end, several bits of worldbuilding, and a scene or two. This was all a Good Thing.


My first draft was rambly and unfocused. The edited version was tighter, cleaner, and the book I wanted, rather than almost the book I wanted.

Publishing the Result

When I was done, I sent the edited version to beta readers and a professional editor because, improved as it was, Hidden in Sealskin still had problems I knew I couldn’t see. And, since I self-published, I got to work at the rest of publication.

If you want to write a book, that’s one thing. Do NaNo, and you’ll have written a book. Maybe edit it, if you want. If you want to publish, though, there’s a few more steps.

Since I take this self-publishing-is-a-business thing seriously, I hired a cover designer to make sure the cover was gorgeous (and it is!). I also brushed up on formatting and typography to make sure that Hidden in Sealskin looked good enough that you didn’t notice and just enjoyed the read.

After I’d tested/proofed/dealt with everything I could see to be dealt with, Hidden in Sealskin went live. Granted, I still ended up selling a few copies from the future, but that only goes to show that being professional ≠ being perfect. It just means you know the standards and you work to hit or surpass them. And, if when you make a mistake, you fix it.

You can't edit a blank page, but you can fix it. You do that by filling it.

Which is what NaNo is for.

So let’s get going. :)

Hidden in Sealskin is the story of Adren, an outlaw who hates humans, as she sets out to steal a sealskin in exchange for a cure for her insane unicorn. Matters are complicated by Nadin, the awkward teenager who insists on helping and who Adren isn't sure she can trust, the mystery surrounding the sealskin, and the awakening secrets of Adren's mind.

Here's to hoping no one gets in the way.

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