I write about NaNoWriMo a lot. It’s no secret that I really love doing NaNoWriMo every November, even though it often leaves me a bit burnt out. And also that I never plan to publish anything professionally, at least right now. For me, NaNoWriMo is more about having fun and really writing for 30 days—and less about producing something I think people want to read. (This might be the imposter syndrome talking!)
However, I’ve never really touched on what comes after NaNoWriMo. You know, the part where you let your novel sit for a little while then you go back to it. And edit it. And keep writing on it.
I’ve done that. (I promise! I probably reread all my NaNoWriMo novels at least twice a year.) But I never really talk about doing it or write about doing it. (Oof, writing about writing, am I right?) It’s just something I do, piece by piece, for several months, until it’s time for the next NaNoWriMo novel.
And just like NaNoWriMo, I have my own specific process for editing my NaNoWriMo novels. Obviously, I come from the unique place of not intending to publish anything, but just wanting to write something really good that I personally enjoy reading. I thought I would share my process in case it is helpful for others.
1. Find a beta
Betas are, in the writing world, people who edit your work for you. The term popularly comes from fanfiction—and I have a group of people I’ve known for years who beta stories for people nearly every single weekend. It’s just something they enjoy doing and they are very good at it. So if you are a writing hobbyist, and you really want to improve, and you don’t just want someone to read your work and tell you its awesome, look for a beta. There are so many great ones out there and you can get great plot and grammar feedback. Many betas have their areas of expertise, so even having 2 or 3 people read over your NaNoWriMo novel and make notes can make a huge difference.
2. Write a list of scenes
One thing I usually do a few months after November is going through what I’ve written and making a list of each scene. I can then use that list to guide me as I do my big reread and note where I want to rewrite a scene, move it around, or take it out completely. I can take notes on that list about what I want to change, and how, and why.
3. Reread, reorder, & rewrite
Once I have a lot of notes about what I want to do (as well as feedback from my betas of what worked and what didn’t), I start the often rather difficult process of doing those things. For me, this part is really tedious—it’s what I hate most about editing. But having a list of the original order of scenes allows me to know what I moved and where and why, so I can keep better track of what I’m doing without getting confused. Usually during the process, I start doing way more than I originally intended, then make myself tired. I tend to cap editing at about 2 hours a week, because otherwise I will absolutely get burnt out.
4. Print it out
If you read that last sentence, you’re probably like, “hold on… you only edit for 2 hours a week?” Yeah. Alongside all the writing I do, for this blog, for my freelance work, and for my job, doing too much makes me go bonkers pretty fast. And there is nothing worse than being absolutely frozen on a deadline for a job that pays, you know? Steps 2 and 3 usually take me a good 3-4 months (I haven’t even started them yet for my most recent NaNoWriMo novel, I’m not ready!). But, once I get that first round done, I will print out my NaNoWriMo novel and read through it with a pen. At this point, I will start noting what I want to add to it, if anything. Sometimes, I want to add in scenes I had originally removed, but have them rewritten and in a totally new place. Or written a totally new way. This step is one of the most fun parts for me, but can also be quite tedious—like when I randomly decide to change the voice about halfway through.
Once I finish this step, I start writing again—compiling my notes from my printed copy. Then, I start the editing process over again: betas, the list, and more writing. I recently thought about restarting this process for my NaNoWriMo novel from 2014—it’s one of my favorites, but needs the most work, as well as a load of research to fix some major errors.
What’s your NaNoWriMo editing process like?