RTW: Post-NaNo Editing

This week’s Road Trip Wednesday, hosted by YA Highway, is focused on the post-NaNoWriMo world of editing and revising. The question they are asking today is:

How do you approach editing/revising? Any tips or tricks or resources you can share?

This is a for-real product. Click the picture to find out more…

First, I will not be spending December editing or revising my NaNo project. I’m keeping that safely tucked away until the New Year. I’ve spent a month with that manuscript, and we need some time apart so I can look at it with fresh eyes in January. I suppose that goes some way toward answering the question, because I’ve taken this approach with all the novels I’ve written so far. After writing, I’ll take a break from that particular work, perhaps start something else, or catch up on things I set aside while writing. Only after a few weeks’ or more distance from the novel will I return to it, and try to read it as if I was reading it for the first time.

I will also make multiple passes over the manuscript, perhaps one time for continuity and fact-checking. Another time to check for mechanical errors (typos, bad grammar, horrible sentence structure, etc.). And I save every edit, using the software version convention (e.g., My Novel 1.0.doc; My Novel 1.1.doc; My Novel 1.2.doc; My Novel 2.0.doc). Each minor version represents one of my passes through. When it’s ready to go to 2.0, it’s ready for beta readers. At 3.0, it’s ready to query. Between 2.0 and 3.0, there may be multiple passes as I receive feedback and make changes.

So there’s some insight into my editing process. How do you approach editing? Any tips or ideas you want to share? Feel free to do so in the comments, or participate in the Road Trip (details at YA Highway)!

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22 Responses to RTW: Post-NaNo Editing

  1. OMG! I WANT THAT TOWEL! LOL
    When I’m revising, I need a break from each pass, otherwise I won’t do it right. It’s like I’m overdosing with too many words and all of the same, so I get tired of looking at it and need a break.
    But maybe that’s because I don’t like revising, I don’t like editing. But they are a big part of what we do, right? So, yeah, gotta swallow that ;)

    • The thought of revising is certainly daunting, but I think it’s worse the closer you are to having just written the first draft. Hopefully, by January, the prospect of revision won’t be so scary. With the last novel I wrote, I enjoyed reading it so much, each revision pass was a pleasure. The downside of that is it can be hard to be objective about edits and changes when you love the story the way it is. That one has been shelved for a long time until I can get better perspective on it!

  2. Haha! That towel is hilarious. :P I’m not sure I have an exact way that I revise/edit. I revise as I go, so my first draft isn’t exactly a true first draft. Mostly I do an awful lot of read-throughs just for punctuation, wording, continuity, and so on. And then there’s all of the incorporating of suggestions that my CP and beta readers make. I’ve only ever done this process once, so who knows how it will be the next time.

    • Isn’t the towel funny? :) I think this is the first time my first draft really is a first draft. Previously I’ve edited while I write, but I think I’ve found that even when editing on the fly, the end result still needs a lot of work. NaNo has taught me I can get the job done just as well if I turn off the editor while I draft, and concentrate on crafting the draft into a good story after.

      Writing is truly one art where there is no correct way to go about it (though, that’s probably true of a lot of other art forms)–what matters is the end result, and we each find the way that works for us to get there. All the best with your edits, Jaime! :)

  3. Taking some time away from the manuscript is a very smart move, Colin! I hope that the break will help you come back with fresh eyes and resolve to revise it!

    • Thanks, Julie! I certainly hope the time away will give me a better “reader’s” perspective on the novel, and I’ll be able to make it into something worth giving to others. :)

  4. I’m planning some time away from mine, too, once I finish it. I did “win” NaNo but have a long way to go until “the end”–probably keeping up my NaNo pace till shortly before Christmas. After that, though, it gets a break of at LEAST a month, if not more. I guess that’s when I’ll find out what my revision process is like!

    • I hope you manage to keep up the NaNo pace, Mrs. S. I don’t think I could have, which is why I really wanted to get to “The End” by the end of November. I wish you every success, especially to meet your goal of getting to “The End” before Christmas. :)

  5. That towel is awesome. Congrats on winning NaNo.

  6. That towel is brilliant :D

    I rename drafts too. I have mark 2, 3, 4 and 5 drafts :P Technically there should be more, buuuuut I lost count.

    • Call me a pack-rat (“you’re a pack-rat!”), but I don’t rename–I actually keep all the previous versions of the manuscript. I guess I’m just afraid that I’ll edit out something I’ll want to put back in later. I don’t know if that’s ever actually happened, but *you never know!* (BTW, “You Never Know” is the pack-rat’s motto.) :)

  7. Nice towel! I have a scene in my WIP that incorporates a towel in a very similar fashion lol. You’re smart to step away from your WIP after working non-stop on it for a month, especially since it’s the Christmas season. I’m not very good at the stepping back part. As for my revisions, they involve post-its. Lots and lots of post-its. And endlessly combing through to hack out words. Even though revisions can be monotonous I’ve more or less enjoyed the process.

    • I think the revision process can be very enjoyable, especially if you like what you’re revising! It can also be just as creative as drafting: changing words, changing sentences, changing paragraphs, writing new scenes, restructuring–these are all part of the creative process. :)

  8. I always take a break, too! There’s just no way I can dive back into revisions with the very, very flawed first draft so clearly on my mind. And I think I might adopt your version numbering system—right now it’s saved by date, but I have a hard time remembering when the most recent date is! (oops.)

    • I’ve worked in IT for long enough that the version numbering system comes naturally to me. But I think it is a good way to keep track of progress, and not to lose ideas you once trashed but later had second thoughts about. Who knows, you might remove a sub-plot in version 1.5 of the story that you later decide to develop into its own novel!

  9. I usually take a break, too. With previous NaNos I’ve waited until January, but with this one I can’t wait. I’ve taken about a week off but I’m about to dive back in. Nice towel, btw! :)

    • I wondered if my decision to wait a whole month is somehow reflective of my enthusiasm toward the story. I don’t think that’s the case here–it probably has more to do with the fact that I worked pretty intensely on it during November, and so I don’t appreciate it as much as I did other novels that I took longer over drafting. Hopefully the break will give me better perspective on it. Also, there are other things I want to get done before the end of the year, so I need a bit of a writing break. Not a total writing break (heaven forbid!)…

  10. Once some real life stuff is over with I do intend to edit. I worry that if I take a break I lose that motivation so while I’m still on a NaNo high I need to start something. Then again I haven’t looked at the draft at all so far so a little break has been taken. I might wait till this term is over to start. Then I’ll have days to myself. :)

    • For me, I needed more motivation to finish the draft by Nov 30 than I’ll need to edit. It takes longer to edit a novel than to draft it, anyway, so there’s not as much pressure to finish. If it takes me two months to get to version 2.0 of the novel (ready for beta readers), that’s perfectly fine. Besides, I need to gather some beta readers first! :)

  11. I need to get myself that towel. It’ll look so lovely on my desk next to the pile of chocolate :)

    I can never take longer than a couple days off in between drafts, although I did manage to take the month off for NaNo. Even if I’m taking a break, though, I’m always working on something else, because I need to stay in the habit of writing every day so I don’t lose my motivation.

    • Good point, Stephanie: a break from the NaNo novel is by no means a writing break. Even if I’m not thinking about the NaNo novel, I’m at least planning the next project, and doing some kind of writing activity.

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