Friday, November 27, 2009

You finished NaNoWriMo, now what?

It’s revising time!

You’ve won NaNoWriMo. Wow. Now you have 50-70K words of...what?

Something...maybe something good; but rough, cluttered, inconsistent, even embarrassing in places--not something you can do much with...yet.

The next step is to revise. But where do you start? How do you do it? What do you focus on?

Here are three books that will help to answer these questions and more:

Revision And Self-Editing by James Scott Bell

This book rocks.

Scott begins with twelve chapters on core story elements you should check and enhance while editing, including Characters, Plot & Structure, Scenes, Dialogue, etc. He then offers three chapters of advice on the process, and finishes with “The Ultimate Revision Checklist” which runs 39 pages and provides a structured walkthrough of everything discussed previously.

This had the most influence on my revision process and has some really good advice, and a sound theory of fiction that can be used for plotting, outlining and writing in general.


The only downside: much of the info in this is duplicated in his other book Plot & Structure, so you really don’t need both.

Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass

This is a series of workshop-style exercises that can be used to revise a manuscript (and are also good in the formative stages to solidify an outline). It covers things like multidimensional characters, inner conflict, stakes, complications, subplots, fixing low tension scenes, and pitching your completed work among others.

These exercises are a good bridge between a 1st draft and a second draft, and most of them assume you have a finished manuscript to use in the exercise. They also compliment (and have a slightly different flavor from) his book: Writing the Breakout Novel, which I also recommend.


The downside? It will take while to get through the exercises, and another read-through and draft will be needed to pull the vivisected novel back together again, though it will be much stronger. Second, his other book: The Fire in Fiction is mostly redundant information.

Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint by Nancy Kress

This book has some great tips and techniques for focusing in on character, layering in depth. Especially for NaNoWriMo works, going back and taking another pass to expand, enhance and evaluate the characters will make a rough story a strong novel. This book has good tools to make characters multidimensional, dynamic and to help portray emotions in more subtle, engaging ways.

This is also good for general theory, as well as a reference to use during the planning/outlining phase.

There you have it, three ways to turn your NaNoWriMo productivity into a novel you can be proud of.

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