What month is it? National novel writing month, of course! A month where aspiring writers are to put aside all the excuses, procrastination, and anything else that stands between them and their word count. It is a month of inspirations and creativity. Late nights and cool sunrises. Dreams of publication! Or, just simply: frustrated with your stale 10th draft? Write a completely new one.
Or not. I’m taking a slightly different approach. I have a novel that, after going through literary agent hell, needs a revamp. Writing a whole new book would just delay what I need to do. But that doesn’t mean I can’t benefit from the motivating energy of NaNoWriMo. I want to finish a book, just like everyone else. And, hopefully, my process will include enough creativity and new writing to feel as fresh, new, and accomplished as the rest of you NaNoWriMonthers..
So how am I going about this editing thing? I’m using a top-down approach. First I’m reading through my novel and documenting the important plot points for each and every chapter on notecards. I keep these with me during the day, just in case I ever have downtime in which I can lend some mind-muscle to my work. I will also create character cards with all of the pertinent information for each. This includes back story, quirks, or any other characteristics I want to keep in mind. The goal is to have all information that I would potentially want to know in an easily digestible form.
Now that I have my cards I can go through and think about my story critically. I already have some feedback from my submissions phase, so I started this process knowing the main hints I wanted to change. But having the plot laid out in an easily accessible way will make it less painful to pick out which occurrences or characters don’t work quite as well.
For those of you who do not have a critical reader to identify just what needs a revamp, here are some questions to ask yourself: 1) Is my plot too complicated? For first novels, simple is better. Don’t try to get all intricate at the very beginning of your career. Identify what parts of the plot are convoluted and perform some much needed surgery. 2) Do you maintain the ‘suspension of belief?’ Even if your story is about a werewolf who falls in love with a piglet who can cure cancer, you don’t want to throw logic and probability out of the window. Do events come together in unbelievable (read: convenient) ways? Sit down and think about your plot and what you can change to make it more feasible. 3) Is your main character perfect? By this, I mean is your main character all you want him or her to be specifically for this role? A lot of times there will be a major flaw in some aspect of a main character, and changing that can eventually alter the entire novel.
The big thing that I want to change is numero dos: suspension of disbelief. Using my notecards, I can now go through my story and pick our which parts just don’t make sense/are too far out there. An idea of a very basic but potent change to the plot came while doing this. Excite! The next step is to consider all of my story’s elements and see how they fit in to my new development. To me, a whiteboard is the best way to do this. I can mark, erase, move, and generally just have all of my characters, events, and themes on one big space.
The next step is to go through each chapter, card by card, and make the appropriate changes. In some cases, just completely rewrite. At first, these cards were meant to be a guide in helping me think about the plot and what needs changing and in the end they will be the blueprint for revision writing. After all of my chapter and character cards are updated, I will go through and edit a chapter of my book a day. Seeing as I have 20 chapters, and if I get the planning out in a timely manner, this should see me through to the end of the month.
This is how I’m spending November. If you’ve never participated in NaNoWriMo or–more appropriately–have never completed a novel, I would strongly suggest going for starting (and finishing) something new. But for others, at a certain point you have to put new projects on pause and make something out of what you already have. You owe it to yourself.
So, who’s with me? National Novel Editing Month! What are your strategies?