by Isabo Kelly
TIP: Ignore the fact that you need to fix a full-length novel, and concentrate on the baby steps required to get there.
Post NaNoWriMo, you’ll be in one of two positions: (1) You have part of a draft written but still have to finish your book. (2) First draft is done.
If you’re at (1), go forth and write more! Enjoy. Have fun. Write on to The End. If you’re at (2), yay! Congratulations. Celebrate. Do a happy dance.
Then it’s time to get to work.
Like the blank page of a first draft, starting the editing phase can be daunting, especially if you’re a writer like me who believes in the shitty first draft philosophy—that first draft is the raw clay of your story. Editing is when you take that clay and form it into something readable.
Now some of you edit as you go and write a much cleaner first draft, but NaNo is about writing fast without taking the time to stop and edit along the way. This means you’ll have a draft that will need at least a little work. After the deliriously creative binge of NaNo, switching your brain to edit mode can be tough. Getting started can take a little effort. Just like getting that word count down every day, returning to the story to craft and sculpt it will take determination on your part. And maybe a little bribery. Here are some tips to get you to the page for edits:
(1) Take some time away from your story. Write something else. Read a few books from that ToBeRead pile. Go to the movies. Enter the world again and interact with other people who aren’t writers. Whatever gets your head out of your story. This has the duel benefit of giving you distance from the work so you can approach the edit with a fresh eye, and giving you time to get excited about reading the story again. If you got all the way to The End, you liked the story you were telling. It’s fun to go back and read it again, revisit those beloved characters, remind yourself what they got up to. That old saying “distance makes the heart grow fonder” works really well with your Work-In-Progress. If you’re excited to see the story again, opening it up to begin editing will be a lot easier.
(2) Make a plan to tackle the edits. This will be individual to your style, effort, and time constraints, as well as what the story needs. There are as many options as there are writers. For example, you could start by doing a full read through and taking edit notes, then go back to implement the changes you need to make. You might want to go in looking at the “big picture” stuff first, then do another draft to tackle the little details. You might start with getting the spelling and grammar sorted, then diving into story issues. The plan itself is entirely up to you and should fit the way you work best (and this can change for each and every book you write). The point is to have a plan. Just the process of figuring out how you’ll tackle edits makes it easier to open the manuscript and get started. Knowing where and how to start takes away the anxiety of facing the book.
(3) Break the task down into small “bites”. It can be pretty daunting to think about writing 50,000 words in a month, all as one big effort. But if you break that down into the daily word count you need to achieve to make the 50,000 words in 30 days, that 1,667 words seems a lot more doable. The same applies to edits. Break it down into little chunks you can achieve every day. Give yourself a certain number of pages, a single chapter, a few paragraphs, or even one scene to finish each day. Whatever breakdown works best for you and keeps you from feeling overwhelmed, that’s the one to use. Ignore the fact that you need to fix a full-length novel, and concentrate on the baby steps required to get there.
(4) Bribery. I was serious when I mentioned bribery above. This is the technique I use most often to get my computer on and my head into my edits. One of the things that makes editing hard to start is that it takes a different kind of concentration from first draft writing, often more concentration, and definitely a lot more critical thinking. So bribe yourself to open the manuscript. “If I edit for fifteen minutes, I can watch the new episode of Walking Dead.” “If I get that one scene finished, I can go out for drinks with my friends.” “As soon as I finish this paragraph, I get a cookie.” “Once I edit that sentence, I get to read a for-fun book.” Whatever it takes. Use the bribe of your choosing. It just has to be motivating enough to make you accomplish your editing goal (so no “If I get this scene done, I’ll do the dishes. That is not a good bribe. Well, unless you really really enjoy doing dishes.)
Turning the initial burst of creativity that spilled onto the page into a fully fleshed out story is as rewarding as reaching The End on your first draft. Using these four tips can help you start, and once you get going on the second draft, you’ll be off and running, making that story not only readable, but un-put-downable.♥
Isabo Kelly is the award-winning author of multiple fantasy, science fiction, and paranormal romances. She accidentally won NaNoWriMo when drafting her latest release, WARRIOR’S DAWN (FIRE AND TEARS #3)—she hadn’t actually meant to do NaNo, but the story spilled out. For more on Isabo and her books visit her at www.isabokelly.com, follow her on Twitter @IsaboKelly, or friend her on Facebook www.facebook.com/IsaboKelly.