Even though NaNoWriMo has come and gone, I’ve been crazily trying to finish the first draft of my new novel as I’m aiming for 85-90K words. My tally as of today is 75K, and I’m waist deep in the climax and final scenes. I’m so close, yet feel so far from the end line. So many loose ends to tie and not forget.
While my mind goes into a whirlwind of craziness, a small part of my brain has been preoccupied with the next steps. Revisions. With a monster of a first draft, and a million notes and new ideas later, how do I tackle it?
I recently asked this question of P. June Diehl who is the Editorial and Senior Editor for Virtual Tales, the Senior SF Editor for ePress-Online, and also coaches writers. I’m fortunate enough to be taking one of her courses over at Savvy Authors.
Her advice is as follows:
Print out the entire draft manuscript, and read it from beginning to ending
The idea here is to read the story with fresh eyes. I’ve never done it this way before, and it sounds like a great idea. Look out for plot arcs, characterisation inconsistencies / dialogue, settings / descriptions and prose structure. Take down notes of those areas needing fixing. These could range from ensuring each character / event has a motivation / purpose in the story, to ensuring sentences are active, to finding places where you’re telling more than showing, to whether all five senses are being used in descriptions.
One important step here it to not get caught up in doing any grammatical changes. That can all come later. Also hold back from editing the manuscript at this stage. Just take down notes.
There are a number of online sites that provide a checklist of what to look for. Such as:
Place notes, ideas and changes into groups
As I wrote my initial draft, I jotted down many notes of things I need to elaborate on, do further research on and bits of foreshadowing I need to remember for later in the book. After doing a read through, I should have an even longer list of things to fix.
Now comes the fun part of placing all notes into groups. For me, I’m thinking most will fall under one of the following elements, and adding notes on whether they impact the entire novel, or particular scenes.
World Building / Setting
The way to use these groups is more of personal preference: either tackle each group across the entire draft, or do it in chapter / scene chunks. For me, I’ll probably incorporate a bit of both.
My plan is to tackle the big issues first, the ones that cover the entire manuscript – hopefully there aren’t that many, then do the smaller changes.
I’m guessing the above will take me a little while, but once done, it’s about sharing it with beta or critique partners to get a feel for the story and flow and characters and everything.
And I think it will be at this stage I might start looking at grammar and punctuation. Would hate to waste time doing this too early when it might get changed.
My timing for the above:
1. print out the manuscript end of this week
2. try to finish writing last chapters next week
3. take a week or so off from looking at the manuscript until the new year
4. early January, read the manuscript and creates notes.
5. mid January start revising
6. end January send some revised chapters to beta / critique partners
Point 5 and 6 continues until the manuscript revision round is complete. Then comes the next round of revisions based on feedback.
I have no idea how long this will take, but I’m really hoping it will take max a few months. Fingers crossed.
What about you? How do you tackle a newly drafted novel?