Tips for Revising Your NaNoWriMo Novel or Other First Draft by Lisa Carlisle

How many of you participated in National Novel Writing Month this past November, where you pledge to write a 50,000 novel in thirty days? Many authors love it; others hate it. I look forward to the challenge and the idea of committing myself to focusing on a novel for one month a year. So many other priorities get in the way if I let them, but in November my mantra is Nano, Nano, Nano. 

This is my fourth year and I’ve come up with a post-nano revision process. At the end of November, I have a completed novel. Yeah! Yet, it is far from finished. It’s a messy first draft with a number of unnamed characters, question marks, and comments for me to address in the revisions. So here’s the process I try to stick to. I hope you can use it for your Nano novel or other first draft.

Let it Sit

You’ve just written a novel in a short amount of time. Give it (and you) some breathing room. It needs to sit. I let it rest for at least a month.

Since I’ve spent November cranking out a novel, I spend December working on other works I’ve neglected that month, usually revising another piece or working on shorter stories. Also, it gives me some time to reconnect with family and friends during the holidays, whom I may not have seen as much while in my writing cave.

Read it Quickly

Now that you’ve had some distance from your novel, you can look at it again with fresh eyes. Read the full draft to take in the overall state so you gauge the areas you need to address. Are there plot points that don’t make sense? Sub-plots not tied up? Character arcs that don’t work?

It’s tempting to revise as you write, but try to keep reading. If it’s too difficult not to make adjustments as you go, you can jot notes on a pad with paper to address during your revisions.

Revise Your First Draft

Give yourself plenty of time to go through revisions and go through them as many times as you need. There are many points to address as you revise; here are a few:

  • Make sure each scene moves the story forward
  • Add sensory description and detail to each scene and setting
  • Flesh out weak descriptions
  • Bring greater depth to each character
  • Search for repetitive words
  • Replace bland words or verbs with stronger ones
  • Read dialog out loud to make sure it rings through

Read on an E-Reader

After I think I have a solid draft, I find it helpful to read my novel on an e-reader. It helps me absorb the book as a reader, not as the author – two distinct perspectives. While I’m reading, I add highlights and notes to my novel. Then I set up my Kindle beside me and go through my markups as I work through another round of revisions on my netbook.

Send to Critique Partners

I found two fantastic critique partners this year and what a difference they make. Since they are both authors who have worked with editors during revisions, they can quickly see the overall picture and offer line by line suggestions. The feedback they’ve given has helped me improve manuscripts tremendously. I’m guilty of repeating the same word in a scene and they’re great at pointing that out—before I drive my editor crazy. 😉

At the same time, I love being able to help with their novels and stories. I critique their WIPs and offer suggestions on what I think works and what could be revised. Have you heard the saying how you learn by teaching—it’s true! As I critique their stories, I learn how to improve my own.

Print out a Hardcopy and Revise Further

This is a step I find painful, wasting all that paper when I can just read the novel on a screen, but it’s amazing what you can see on a printout that you may miss otherwise. I’m working on final revisions on a novel I’ve revised on screen many times; my paper revisions are full of markups on how I can improve the manuscript.

Send to Beta Readers

If you can find a few people to read your novel, take advantage of it. They can provide valuable feedback to help you move closer to publication.

Incorporate Final Feedback

Consider the feedback you’ve received as use it for final revisions. You don’t have to follow every suggestion, but keep them in mind to see what you can use to improve your novel.

Final Steps

Take the final steps here depending on the project. Prepare to submit to publishers, agents, or self-publish, each which has its own steps.

Is there anything you would add? Please share them in the comments.

See my related article on Ten Tips for Surviving Nanowrimo

Lisa Carlisle writes a paranormal erotic romance series called Underground Encounters for Ellora’s Cave; the latest release is entitled Gargoyle’s Embrace, featuring a bartender in a goth club and her connection to a gargoyle statue in the club. She also writes contemporary romance; a new release at Red Sage Publishing is a romantic novella called A Marine’s Proposal. Lisa spent a short time in the Marines herself and uses the exotic setting of Okinawa, Japan, in some of her stories.


For more on her works or to sign up for new releases, visit her website. Connect with Lisa at
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gargoylesembrace_msrFifth in the Underground Encounters series.

Tracy isn’t sure why she’s drawn to a particular gargoyle statue in the Goth club where she works. After the stone takes human form to protect her from her abusive ex, she brings the handsome, naked male to her apartment. It’s impossible to ignore the seductive appeal of a man sculpted like a Viking warrior.

Danton has only hours in human form to spend with the woman he has hungered for. He’s convinced what’s between them is more than hot sex, but he needs to convince Tracy of that before he turns back to stone.

A Romantica® paranormal erotic romance from Ellora’s Cave

Buy now at: Ellora’s CaveAmazonBarnes and NobleAll Romance Ebooks and Kobo


A Marine's Proposal

When Slade Masters, her closest friend in the Marine Corps, proposes to her, Caitlyn O’Neill lets her thrill overshadow the catch. It’s a marriage in name only. Slade thinks a temporary marriage is the perfect solution to their problematic living situations in the barracks. Despite her reservations about the deceit involved, Caitlyn is thrilled to live off-base and experience the culture of the island of Okinawa, Japan, as a local—especially with Slade. Swept up in the excitement of apartment hunting and planning a wedding, she silences the anxiety within and goes along with Slade’s plans. They struggle to fight their growing attraction while acting on their script. On their wedding night, their bodies heat up with the thrill of being so close. Desire intensifies during a heated moment on the dance floor. How can they play off the charade of their marriage now that they have complicated their arrangement? Have they ruined their plan or will they find a way to continue? Or has their passionate night together uncovered hidden desires impossible to ignore?

Buy now at Red Sage