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After NaNoWriMo

It's December, and you know what that means - NaNoWriMo 2018 is officially ended! Congratulations! Whether you "won" NaNo or just dipped your pinkie toe in, developing a writing habit is hard, and you should seriously be proud of ANY steps you took in that direction.

But, now what do you do with your 50,000-ish word work-in-progress?

A lot of people think that they need to rush out and hire an editor. You could, but ask any published author, and she'll tell you that after one month, you don't have a novel.

What you have, my friend, is a Crappy First Draft.

But don't despair!

With a little (I spelled "a lot" wrong) work, a Crappy Rough Draft can turn into an awesome polished book worthy of an editor's time and attention--AND your hard-earned money.

Real talk: Good editors don’t come cheap, and you don’t want to waste your money having them fix surface issues like grammar or mechanics. I highly recommend doing some self-editing on your own and with a critique group.

Here are some concrete steps to take to polish up that baby:

  1. Pick up Self-Editing for the Fiction Writer by Renni Browne and Dave King (Amazon, B & N, Kobo, iTunes, GooglePlay).

  2. Read through it.

  3. Take a pass through your manuscript with special attention to the areas mentioned in the book.

  4. Next, find a critique group or beta readers. I always recommend staying away from the impulse to let your boyfriend/ girlfriend/ parents/ siblings/ best friends and anyone who has a vested interest in telling you what you want to hear.

  5. Ask them to look at areas of opportunity for improvement, such as weak plot, repetition, vague main character Goals, Motivations, and Conflicts.

  6. Review the critiques you get back and implement those you think will make the story better.

  7. Do a read-through on your own. For every chapter, list 1-10 things the story SAYS and 1-10 things the story DOES:

  8. For instance, in chapter 1 of Harry Potter, what the story says is: a young boy from the Wizarding World is orphaned and dropped off to live with muggles;

  9. What the story DOES is: creates sympathy for Harry, provides backstory, introduces us to the Wizarding World, gives us glimpses of some of its inhabitants like Hagrid, McGonagal, and creates mystery.

  10. Look for areas of repetition in your What it Says/What it Does outline.

  11. Eliminate those areas.

  12. Seek out craft books that help with any weaknesses you've identified (e.g., weak plot, repetition, vague main character Goals, Motivations, and Conflicts).

  13. Read those books and fix those areas.

  14. Spellcheck and grammar check.

  15. Repeat steps 4-5 (and 6 if needed).

Only after you’ve done all this should you spend your dough on a reputable editor. Only AFTER you've done all your editing should you query agents and publishing houses. These folks aren’t looking for rough manuscripts. They’re looking for a mss that’s AT LEAST 95% of the way there.

As always with any writing advice, this is just a guideline. Some of these techniques may work GREAT for you, while some won't. Individual mileage may vary.

Happy editing!


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