Revision, Rewriting, and Editing Your Novel

NaNoWriMo is officially over, which means nightmares of revision horors are crawling around in the heads of hundreds of writers right about now. Here’s some tips to help guide you through the revision process!

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NaNoWriMo: The Power of Titles

Participant-2014-Web-Banner (1)As I’ve been away at residency in Louisville it’s become glaringly obvious to me that my NaNoWriMo project is stuck. When I arrived, I had 24,000 words (no, I haven’t added to that in a week) and no idea where my story was going, what it was about, or what I needed to write next.

This is not to imply that I’ve been uninspired. While here, I’ve drafted two picture books and a flash creative essay. Thanks to workshop, I’ve been more than successful in figuring out what last year’s project needs in it’s next revision, but I’ve made little progress as far as my current project is concerned.

Which leads me to a conversation about titles. Great titles are amazing. They’re like a muse that is always there to remind you what your story is about, and never fail to lead you back to the heart of the book when you’re floundering. Without a title for this project, I feel like I’m wandering around in the wilderness with no idea where I’m trying to go. So my new goal is: come up with a title. Even a placeholder, a throwaway, a horrible title that would never market.

Naming the thing makes me more powerful than the thing itself.

So that’s what I’ll try to do. Then I’ll try to write 25k+ in the next ten days. That can be done right?

Shh. I don’t want to know your answer.

 

NaNoWriMo: A Room of My Own

My whole life I’ve imagined what it would be like to have an entire room in a house that was dedicated to books, both their creation and consumption. In honor of NaNo, here’s what that looks like!

When we bought our three-bedroom cape cod in August, I knew exactly which room I wanted for this purpose. It’s on the main floor, not too far from the kitchen (caffeine access), gets great light in the morning, has a tiny closet for crafting and art supplies, and has a perfect view of our back yard. We painted the room a lovely, inspirational shade of green, put up some pretty curtains, and filled that sucker with books. Every writer is familiar with Virginia Woolf’s recommendation that each writer needs a “room of her own” to think, read, and write in. This is my room, and I love it to bits.

My desk

My desk and the matching chair were a craigslist find, and the items on this wall were gifts. The desk provides the perfect amount of space to work in, and it has a wonderful view.

View

When I write at this desk, I am surrounded by the whisperings of the hundreds of books that have influenced me with their pages. There are two more bookcases in other parts of the house, but this is the bulk. On the leftmost bookcase I have antique books, filled journals, writing reference, and to-read. Next is nonfiction with blank notebooks and school binders at the bottom. On the other side, young adult books get a shelf, with filled sketchbooks, art journals, and photo albums at the bottom, and lastly is the fiction shelf with magazines and oversize books at the bottom. This room is such a happy place for me!

LibraryDo you have a room of your own? I highly recommend it. 🙂

 

NaNoWriMo: Why “serious” writers should promote rather than dismiss

Participant-2014-Web-Banner (1)

Many of you will shake your heads upon reading this. Or perhaps even roll your eyes. Maybe blow a raspberry, send a prayer heavenward.

I’m going to say it anyway.

NaNoWriMo season has arrived.

This year, more than usual, I’ve seen a number of posts by those lofty, unattainable beings who claim to be, above all else, serious writers. They scoff at the mention of month-long noveling, turn up their noses at the thought of it. Discourage whoever they can from participating. Wait patiently for that far off day (December 1st) when Twitter, tumbler, and the internet at large will return to it’s regularly scheduled programming.

And I am here to set the record straight, at the risk of sounding like a broken one.

Serious writer or first time participant, you absolutely should try National Novel Writing Month.

Let me tell you why.

NaNoWriMo is fun. It’s a month-long (distressingly, horrendously, terrifyingly hard) party, where we spend time with people who are working toward the same goal that we are. Whatever our methods, our means, our motivation, or our end result, we’ve all attempted (and hopefully achieved) the same result: a 50,000 word piece of crappy first draft fiction. Maybe that’s all you do. Then the next time you’re buying coffee at your favorite place or books at your favorite shop (please buy books from shops) or groceries at the supermarket, you can say, truthfully, without guilt, remorse, or modesty, “Yeah, I wrote a book once.” But maybe you go on and spend a long, long time doing the hard, hard work of revision that gets you, eventually, to final draft fiction. And maybe somebody somewhere likes that final draft, a lot, and your name gets to be on the cover of a book. And you become an author.

There are plenty of wildly successful, quality authors out there who cannot be described as serious. Just check out a few of their YouTube channels. Being a not-so-serious writer can be key to getting in touch with your audience, making friends, and (someday) selling books. Any aspiring writer who finds that one of their favorite authors thinks they should (attempt, try, stumble through the process of) write a novel will be inspired and pleased and instantly find a little more space to add to the box in their heart that belongs to that writer. An author who discourages (snubs, belittles, snickers at) this endeavor, however, might actually loose some of their holy-authorness in the eyes of readers.

Besides, any writer, serious or not, who says they aren’t pleased to tell people in coffee shops that they’re a writer and yes, they’ve written novels is lying.

A Note About Quality: Or, Mediation

To the Naysayers: anyone who has read Sara Gruen’s Water For Elephants cannot truthfully declare that NaNoWriMo is a worthless, awful feat. Don’t allow you negativity to discourage the next book that good from being written.

To the Wrimos: Water For Elephants was not the book that it is on December 1st. As described above, there was a long, long time and a lot of hard, hard work between then and publication. Don’t send you 2014 NaNovel out to agents or publishers until after January 1st, 2016 (no, I don’t mean 2015). And only then if you’ve given it everything you possibly have to give. And don’t self-publish it just because you can.

To the One Who is Just Considering: Try it. You’ll like it.

Okay, I rest my case. Here’s to NaNoWriMo 2014, my fifth (hopefully) completed NaNovel, and more crazy than any other time of year. Futher up and further in!

NaNoWriMo Day 26: Winning and TGIO

2013-Winner-Facebook-Cover

With four days left in the month of November, I am super excited to report that this year’s attempt at NaNoWriMo resulted in a win! I have never won early, so this year when I reached the 50,000 word goal on November 21st, I surprised even myself! (Isn’t that what writing is supposed to do?) Congratulations to everyone else who has already won (many of you long before I did) and KEEP GOING to those of you who are almost there!

The question of what to do when you’ve reached your goal/finished your story/ won can be difficult to answer, so here a some of the ways I like to celebrate/recover.

1. Eat something healthy. (This includes chocolate!)

Nothing like replenishing your body of all the nourishment it’s been starved of, but it doesn’t hurt to satisfy a sweet tooth as well! You’ve earned it!

2. Sleep. 

This is a big one. Just do it. For a long, long time.

3. Drink some water and try to break yourself of the caffeine addiction you’ve acquired.

I know we all become coffee aficionados as soon as November starts, but don’t let those multiple cups of coffee a day take a higher toll than they need to and keep you awake when you don’t need to be.

4. Read a book. 

This one might be my favorite. It’s so hard to get much reading done during NaNo, so I like to pick a book that I’ve been wanting to read or that is very popular and piques my curiosity at the very beginning of the month and use it to reward myself when I reach 50k. This year my book was Divergent.

5. Reenter the world of socialization.

Your friends and family have missed you! Ease the pain of saying goodbye to your characters by reconnecting with the important flesh and blood people in your life. Go to a party, go on a date, go see Catching Fire. That’s what I did. 🙂

6. If you finish early, set aside a little time to go back and add any scenes you may have skipped.

This might not bump your word count up much higher than it already is, but it will give you the satisfaction of knowing you really did complete a first draft.

7. Thank God It’s Over.

When December does come around, use your regional forum on the NaNoWriMo website to find the TGIO party that’s closest to you! Go commiserate with other Wrimos about how glad you are that it’s over, and how much you want to do it again.

Seven always seems like a good number, so I’ll stop there. If you have any other ways to celebrate finishing or tips for getting over the post-NaNo problems we all face, share them below!

NaNoWriMo Day 19: Tips for Beating the Thanksgiving Breakdown

NaNoWrIMo 2013Well here we are folks, in the midst of the last week of NaNoWriMo that will be free of cooked birds and cracked family members. Before the festivities launch their full-fledged assault on our word counts and try desperately to keep us from finishing our novels, it’s best to have a counterattack ready. What are your strategies for achieving victory in spite of the holiday lurking at the end of the month? Here are some of my plans and tips for getting through to the finish line – share yours below!

1. Finish your novel before Thanksgiving stuff starts. 

Crazy Level: 5   Achievability: 3

If you are way behind in your word count, this may not be the best option for you. But for everyone else, Thanksgiving Day is so late this year that in order to finish on the Wednesday before, you would need to be only 5,000 words ahead! If you start now, this is totally doable!

2. Write in the car, on the train, in the plane, while snowshoeing toward home.

Crazy Level: 1  Achievability: 5

If you aren’t going to be able to get ahead, at least you can stay on par with your word count by using all of that time you’ll be spending traveling to see your family for your novel’s benefit. Airport terminals and passenger seats can be great writing spaces! (Of course, this is only really helpful if you aren’t the one driving!)

3. Set aside little bits of time for writing during the holidays. 

Crazy Level: 3  Achieveability: 3

This can be a really tough one, but in order to be a NaNoWriMo winner, it is vitally important to stay connected to your story by writing every day. Skipping days will put you so far behind so fast that you won’t know how to catch up! Some of the best ways to be successful with this are to get up a half an hour before the rest of the family, or stay up half an hour later, and use that time to keep your word count on target.

Don’t forget to share your own tips below! We’re gonna need ’em…

Almost There (Halfway): NaNoWriMo Day 12

Day twelve of November’s month-long torturous noveling endeavor is here, my friends, which means that even though many of us are still slogging through the muck that is Week Two, there are just three short days until the halfway point. Just three days! Come November 15th, it’s all downhill (for your blocks and stresses, that is. Uphill for your novel.) Take heart, Wrimos!

If you’ve fallen behind in your effort to reach 1,667 words per day, or whatever other goal you may have set, don’t give up! There is still more than enough time for you to catch up and win NaNoWriMo! In past years, I was right there with you, always managing to scrape by with a win at the last second! (Well, except for once. We won’t talk about that.) You can do this!

This year, however, I’m not in this boat (yet). Whether it is due to four years of training in the field of English literature and creative writing, the host of great books I have read and learned from since my last attempt, or the simple act of warming up to NaNo by writing every day in October (though NOT 1,667 words), somehow, this year, the story is just flowing. So despite the fact that I’ve had a hot pad on my wrist for much of the past 24 hours due to the crazy 5,000 words I wrote during the NaNoThon on Saturday, I am so excited to be able to say that I have reached 25,000 words!

Not only have I reached those words, but three days early! Even in the years that I won, I never reached this important milestone so early in the month. Plus, achieving 25k officially puts me one full day’s word count past the total count of my failed attempt (the one we’re not talking about), restoring my confidence in myself and my writing, and convincing me once and for all that this year I will win!

Another thing I have never experienced in NaNo before? It’s not the temptation to look back at these 25,000 words and think about how crappy they are, for sure. Yes, I’ve written a lot, and yes, I’ve written it fast – but it’s not any good! So who cares!

I do. Because this year, as this rough, rough first draft is being born, I can see what I want to improve. I know what I’m going to change when I come back to it for a second draft. Sure, this may be a story that is, at the moment, worthy of Anne Lamott’s criticism – but that’s okay. It’s a first draft. And someday, it will be better.

So here’s to 25k! And to crappy first drafts that will someday be great. Don’t give up on them now!

Also, because I’m so happy about reaching 25k, I wanted to go back and remind myself why I am writing this story by reading my favorite part of it (go figure – it’s the first page).