I was contacted by Brittany last week about writing a guest post on this topic. I said, “Sure, send me something.” I was a tad hesitant because a lot of what I get for guest posts is unusable. On Friday when I got Brittany’s article I opened the doc and was very happy to see this great article. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Revising Your NaNoWriMo Novel
In an interview with NPR, Chris Baty, the founder of National Novel Writing Month (more commonly known as NaNoWriMo) stated that he believed that everyone had a novel in them. Well, now that you’ve gotten that novel out, what do you want to do with it? Although the mad rush of cranking out your manuscript is over, there’s still plenty of work to be done to make it into a publishable piece.
Start by putting the manuscript aside. This may seem counter intuitive, but it is a good approach whether you are a student working to gain experience through master’s and PhD programs or an advanced novelist. The theory behind this method is that after all of the work that you have put in, your feelings about that text are going to be running hot. Thus its a good idea to use December, January and possibly even February to give your mind a break from the protect and work on something else. You can think about your novel or let other people read it, but otherwise leave it alone.
After allowing the manuscript to cool down a bit, sit down and read it as if you were reading it for the first time. Try not to anticipate what you know is coming and be in the moment. This gives you an idea of what you are working with as a whole, and how the work stands as it is. Next, make a list of obvious fixes that the novel requires. For example, one important thing to remember is that most commercial novels are between 90,000 and 100,000 words long. That means that you may have to double the word count on your NaNoWriMo novel. Similarly, think about things that you have left out, or things that you need to explain more thoroughly. This is where handing the manuscript to others is a good idea, as another pair of eyes can often spot gaps and plot holes that you may have missed.
When editing your piece, it is a good idea to print your manuscript out and go over it with a red pin. By having a tangible copy of the manuscript in your hand, you will be freed to make specific notes. Alternately, if you prefer to work on the computer, use the comment tool to leave yourself notes in the text itself. Making these notes requires you to go through your manuscript again, and while it is tedious, it is an extremely important part of this process.
The next step is to start your rewrites. While some people prefer to work through their manuscripts from beginning to end, other people prefer to to skip through and work on the piece as they feel like it. While both approaches are certainly valid, it is important to ensure that you do not skip or forget anything.
As you rewrite, it is crucial your are patient with yourself and your work. Keep in mind that NaNoWriMo is dedicated to getting words on the page, and that those words will need considerable refinement before the piece can be considered finished. Take it slow if necessary, and remember that even if you only edit 500 words in one day that you might edit 2,000 the next.
It is also important to show other people your work during this process. Whether you join writing group that meets regularly or sign up for a writers’ group online, you need to get outside input on your work. You never know when something is too obscure for someone else, and the more people who review your work, the more understandable it will be to a wider audience.
Finally, rewriting and fixing a first draft is not easy, and you may get bogged down in the details. The important thing to remember is that revising any novel is an endurance trial. Make time to revise every day. Even if you do only a small amount of work, it does add up. Also, don’t rush yourself. Novels can take a while before they are ready to be submitted, so don’t forget or give up on your ultimate goal.
NaNoWriMo has given you a great way to get words on the page, but now you need jump back into the piece and revise. This will allow you to polish your work so it can shine. While revising may be time consuming and not always easy, it offers you a chance to review your work and to bring the novel closer to your true vision.
Bio: Brittany Lyons aspires to be a psychology professor, but decided to take some time off from grad school to help people learn to navigate the academic lifestyle. She currently lives in Spokane, Washington, where she spends her time reading science fiction and walking her dog.