Like so many other writers I participated in NaNoWriMo last month (National Novel Writing Month) attempting to write 50,000 words in one month. I’ve done it for a number of years because I enjoy having one month when I really focus on writing, writing and more writing. To finish that many words it takes discipline and daily concentration on a story. Because I don’t usually plot in advance it takes even more work to have something ready to write EVERY SINGLE DAY. Because of that, I have to remember, re-establish and practice all the good writing habits I can muster and that I’ve learned in the past.
What to do after NaNo?
But there is another reason I enjoy tackling NaNoWriMo. At the end I come out with a nearly fully written book. What is the next step? There can be several. Some writers come out of NaNo and immediately begin the editing process. Others will go back and find all the loose ends and tie them up and then set it aside. That’s more of what I like to do. Even writing that many words will not guarantee a finished product. For certain it won’t be a polished product. But it’s like laying the foundation for a house. The framework is there and some of the walls may be up, but there is still much more work to be done. For the first week of December, I usually go back to my story and fill in some of the blanks I know I’ve left in the plot or I take the time to clean up discrepancies that I didn’t complete or fix while writing the story.
So if I don’t immediately start the editing process, what am I going to do and why? When is the right time to go back in and start to edit a book you’ve just written “The End” on? It all depends. As I noted, if you know there are some things that need fixing, I suggest going back in and immediately fixing them so that they don’t get forgotten or the freshness of your thoughts in writing the story don’t get away.
Let it go, but not for long.
But overall, leaving a story and letting it rest for a while is probably one of the best things you can do. Walk away from it, let it go, and then come back to it in a month or so with a fresh eye. You will find yourself looking at it in a whole new light.
How long should you let it go? The one thing you don’t want to do is to let it go for so long that you totally forget the feel for the book and its characters. To me the people and places in my books are alive in their own little world. I like to visit that place, whether it is real or made up and spend some time with those characters who are always products of my imagination. But visiting that world is like walking into a real location and listening to the characters talk and seeing how they act is like a seeing them come to life. That is how it is during the writing phase, and for certain how it has to be during the editing phase.
Some tips for how to get started
When I come back and begin to edit, I always look for the special touches that will make the reader feel like he or she is being transported into that special world I created. If I don’t get the feel, then I need to work on making it come alive and become real. That means:
- Focus on your senses. Do you feel the coldness of the winter day you were trying to describe when you first wrote the opening scene? Do you fear the oncoming darkness or feel the fear you want your heroine to feel as she watches the sunset and knows those creatures from the previous night might be returning?
- Listen to your characters. Do they all sound alike or does each of them have a different way of speaking so that even if you took away the tags you could tell who was talking?
- Consider the tension in your scenes. Is it there or do you need to make it more profound or turn the scene into something else. Does the scene even make sense? Read over each scene separately and make certain they are necessary.
- Make a list of your scenes. Do they all flow or is there something missing that you need to go back and insert so that your story makes sense?
- What about your grammar, your sentence structure? With each pass through your book it makes sense to look for those little things and to keep correcting them so that at the end all you need is a final polish to finalize your editing.
This is just a brief look at some of the elements of editing and no two people edit the same, but we all have to do it. Sometimes a refresher on the editing process or editing with others besides your critique group can be helpful. Over the next couple of weeks, I will be teaching a class on editing for Savvy Authors and if you’d like more help with editing or even working with your characters or plot, I’d love to have you join us. This is a great time to edit – you could have a book ready to submit at the beginning of the New Year!
Join Becky for Let’s Edit! Putting the Finishing Touches on Your Story with Becky Martinez and get that NaNo Book in shape for 2018!
Becky Martinez is a former award winning broadcast journalist who writes romance, mystery and romantic suspense. Her latest work, a short story, “One More Romance” was published in the anthology, Sealed with Love. Her last mystery novel, Blues at 11, was published by The Wild Rose Press. She is currently writing the next entry in that mystery series featuring a crime-solving TV anchorwoman, as well as a second story set at Redfern Manor, the scene of her novella, Shadows from the Past.
She also teaches writing classes and has co-authored several books on writing with Sue Viders, Let’s Write a Story – Seven Ways to Plot, and Creating Memorable Characters. Both are currently available on Amazon.com. They are currently finishing work on another new writing book, Let’s Write a Story: The Plotting Wheel.
Kimberly Delagarza is a familiar face in Los Angeles as she can be seen nightly on the evening news. She drives a fancy car, lives in a house on the beach and wears designer clothes. But the TV anchorwoman has been accused of murder No one believes she didn’t kill her louse of an ex-boyfriend after he dumped her. Her next picture may be on a wanted poster, and her home may be The Big House and she may soon be wearing an orange prison jumpsuit.
Can Kimberly catch a cagey killer who will stop at nothing to bring her down?