NaNoWriMo Is Over. Now What?
Whether you’ve just completed NaNoWriMo or have a fiction draft languishing in a drawer, you might be asking yourself, “Now what?” Some people dive right in, fixing grammar and punctuation. While polished prose is a joy to read, your best bet is to work on the big structure of your story to make sure that it all hangs together well. You have your story down, and your first editing pass should be about making sure that the crucial elements are included and in their proper places.
Here is Writership’s step-by-step guide to what to do once you’ve completed your first draft.
Step One: Pat yourself on the back! You’ve completed the first draft of your story. This is something that many people set out to do, but don’t always accomplish. Don’t forget to celebrate your victory.
Step Two: Let it rest! You’ve spent 30 days or more writing your story, and chances are you spent time dreaming it alive before that. Most authors find that they need a break to think critically about their work. Revision is all about re-seeing your manuscript, and you can’t see what’s missing or not working until you’ve given it some time. Here are suggestions for what you can do while you’re on your break: http://www.livewritethrive.com/2014/05/05/go-ahead-ignore-your-novel/
Step Three: Know what you’re looking for. During a developmental edit, you want to catch the larger structural issues, assess pacing, identify problems with character development, ascertain if you have plausibility issues, check for consistency in the tone, and theme development. Your job is to find out if your story works. Don’t get hung up on punctuation or grammar or even how well the sentences sound. That comes later. If you see problems in the language, make note of them, and then move on.
Step Four: As much as possible, read your manuscript as if you’re reading it for the first time. Try it in a different font or format (read on your Kindle or try it in print). Re-seeing is easier if you change it up.
Step Five: Begin asking the following questions. This will probably take several passes through the manuscript because it’s hard to look for everything at once. Take your time. Your effort in revising your story will pay dividends when you sell your great story.
• Are all the plot points present and where they should be? Check out last month’s mission for a reminder of what belongs in the plot arc. (Hit reply and let us know if you don’t have it, and we’ll send it to you.) Do you have a beginning hook to grab your reader? Do you have a surprising yet inevitable ending?
- Does your main character change over the course of the story? Is there evidence in the story to justify that change?
- Is the point of view you’ve chosen the best one to tell this story? Sometimes the story needs to come from a different angle. It’s a painful re-write, but worth it to make a good story great. Not sure? Write one of the key scenes from a different point of view and see how it goes.
- Backstory: have you delayed? Have you included enough, but not too much? Have you avoided info dumps?
- Is there enough tension to keep your reader turning the pages?
- Are your characters’ motivations clear? Is it obvious to the reader why the protagonist is pursuing her goal? What about the antagonist? Make sure that people behave authentically—this doesn’t necessarily mean rationally. Are your subplots necessary, are they resolved, do they work, and are they related to the main plot or character arc?
- Is every scene necessary? Does every scene have a conflict? Does it move your main character closer to or further from her goals?
These are not the only questions you should ask about your story, but this is a healthy start. Your future readers will thank you for taking the time to make your good story great.
P.s. While you’re letting your current manuscript rest, might we suggest that you get started on your next story? Grab a copy of Writership Anchor One—Dreamtime: What to Do Before You Write Your Novel and its free workbook (link inside the book) to help you on your way.
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