Well, you did it. Congratulations! Or at least you got a lot more word count than you had before Nanowrimo started. The question is hear most often in December is, “What do I do now?”
Writing Tip for Today: Maybe you slaved all through November and now a heaving mass of 50K+ words sizzles before you. Talk about hot off the press! What should you do with this glob of first draft? Here are some ideas:
- Let it Sit! First drafts need a gestational period, so that your brilliance and spontaneity have a chance to cool off. Put your Nano novel on the back burner so you can gain some distance from demanding characters, purple prose or other types of “darlings.” I recommend at least two weeks for a full-length novel. During this time, scratch your creative itch by writing something completely different–whether it’s a short story, poem or nonfiction piece. You’ve been trapped with this novel for 30 days! You’ll be able to view the story line and the scenes more dispassionately after a short vacation from them.
- Read it Through. After the novel has rested, get it out and read it straight through. Keep a notebook handy or use sticky notes to mark needed changes, but don’t stop to fix. You want to get an idea of what the reader experiences, so you read your work like a reader would. Go one better and you might think about reading your novel aloud–to the dog or the cat but never your mom or your spouse. By reading aloud, you will catch many more errors than simply reading silently. And your pets rarely judge the way our moms and spouses do.
- Fix it Up. If you’ve come through Nanowrimo unscathed, you know that editing a novel is not a one and done type of thing. Some writers start by story boarding the novel to be sure the story and scenes that depict the story are logical and feature rising action. Others start at chapter one and workshop the entire book with trusted peers (a critique group). Many times, foreshadowings (plants) or red herrings must be deliberately placed long after a chapter is written. Be aware that your opening and ending will likely need the most work, so don’t get stuck on Chapter One for weeks on end. As you work your way through the story, chances are you’ll need to rework that opening more than once. As you move into the second phase of crafting a novel, think of revision as your chance to make a good novel great. Just like Nanowrimo, you’ll do whatever it takes.