If you’ve spent a decent amount of time in the writing community, there’s a decent chance you’ve heard of NaNoWriMo. In fact, there’s a decent chance you’ve even participated in it. But I’m posting today about what happens after – how you revise a first draft that, now you look back on it, actually kinda sucks.
1) The first step is to get out your manuscript and blow the dust, cobwebs and tears off it. Your editing instincts will probably interrupt here – there’s a typo on the first page, I have to fix it! But for now you have to let your inner editor rest and just read through the whole thing, as quickly as you can. If you’re squirming because of how horrible it is, you’re doing something right. There are writers who get so attached to their writing that they can’t bear to part with any of it. Well, bad news. Most of it will be chopped to pieces.
2) Now that you’ve read your MS, you’re going to get a notebook, or a Microsoft Word document. What you should do now (though the revising process differs for everyone) is just list all of the big problems your story has. Here we’re not talking about the typos on page 47, or the scene on page 136 that needs work. These are BIG problems – character B needs to be cut, this plot point isn’t working. That section of the novel needs to be completely cut, replotted and rewritten.
3) Next make a list of how you can fix these things in your novel – a few different solutions for each problem. If you’re extra lucky, you might even have an idea for a new subplot, or a new character. This is good too. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you can only have ideas in your first draft.
4) Start rewriting. If you’re a plotter, now is a good time to replot your novel, paying attention to all of your new solutions. If you’re a pantser, just have those problems and solutions somewhere in the back of your mind.
8) When your rewrite is done, hopefully you’ll be a lot more clear on your story. Maybe it doesn’t sparkle yet, but it’s getting clearer. Read your MS again, and list solutions again. These might be smaller problems – the motivation of character D, or a chapter that needs some help.
9) Have fun. It is VERY IMPORTANT to have fun.
Bear in mind that everybody does revisions differently. This is the method I stick to, but don’t feel you have to use it. If there’s one thing you keep in mind from this, it’s that your first draft should and WILL suck. That’s good. The point of NaNoWriMo is not to write a first draft every November – NaNoWriMo is just a starting point, and what you do after that crazy month is the most important part of all.
PS You wrote a novel!!! You can accomplish anything!!