The Nano Now What

January 3, 2007

Happy 2007, Everyone! I hope your holidays were delightful, and I wish you many hours of productive writing for 2007.

For those of you who did Nano – or for those of you who are simply slogging away, trying to finish your latest work-in-progress, you’ve probably hit a wall at this point. You worked your butt off in November; December was all about holidays and catching up on everything you let slide in November.

But now it’s January and . . .now what?

First things first: Have you finished?

I was lucky enough to hit the 50K mark on Assumption of Right by November 18 and finish the first draft by the end of the month. So, my first draft is done and I could let it rest.

If you haven’t finished, take it out and set a goal for yourself of 1000 words/day – that’s only 4 pages – until you’re done. 4 pages/day is a realistic goal, even with a crazy schedule. You can spend the rest of the day thinking about the next four pages, until you actually get the time to do them on the following day.

Unfinished projects drain your energy – creatively and otherwise.

So, finish first.

Once you’re done, let it rest – any time from between two weeks and two months. On a novel-length project, I like to wait for two months. On shorter projects, if the deadlines allow it, two weeks.

If you finished your novel in November, the end of this month is a good time to go back to it.

Take your time with the edit, especially the first edit after letting it rest. It’s important to read it as though someone else wrote it, not read it with passionate attachment to each and every word. Face it – some of them are going to need to be cut or changed.

Read it over, from beginning to end, several times, before taking a single note. Then, start taking notes. Then work your way through it – completely – before going back for another revision. Otherwise, you’ll overwork Chapter 1 by rewriting it 72 times, and only rewrite the last chapter once – and it will show. You’ll be too tired to see it, but any editor or agent to whom you pitch it will catch it.

Remember, very often, editing isn’t just fixing grammar and spelling, or substituting a word here and there. You might have to cut out huge chunks. You might have to add or remove characters. You might need to rearrange chapters.

You have to do what’s best for the story, not for your ego.

But once you get back into the piece’s natural rhythm – not YOUR rhythm, but the unique rhythm of the PIECE – you’ll flow with it. Where the first draft could and should have been rather free-flowing, now is the time you get to play god and rearrange things. Trust in the process and in the art, but layer the craft over it, draft after draft.

And enjoy the process, because you’re working towards your ultimate goal for the piece – publication. It can’t be published if it’s not written and polished.


One comment

  1. Good afternoon!

    I saw your post on the WEB board. My NaNo editing is at a complete stand-still. I had pulled out an old hand-typed timeline and decided to get it keyed into an Excel spreadsheet. It details my Chronicles’ points in Time/History–I call it my Who was doing What: Where, When, and Why, on what world and/or dimension.

    I was doing quite well up to the moment when I discovered a huge whole in my overall plot line; one involving a crucial/key plot point. Having absolutely no idea how to resolve it–though it affects absolutely nothing as regards my finished draft of my NaNo 2006 project–I am completely stuck! I’m working on everything BUT my writing!

    I resolved to work toward a complete revised draft 2007 as there is much more to my storyline and what I accomplished during this year’s NaNo is a small part of the overall project.

    I appreciated reading your ‘…Nano Now What’ and look forward to more of your insight here on The Scruffy Dog…


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