After NaNoWrimo – Editing Part 1

So how we all feeling this morning? Any Wrimo’s take it to the wire last night? We had one lady on the Kent FaceBook group who finally hit the 50k at just before 11.30pm (UK time). I couldn’t go to bed before she’d finished and validated.

So that’s it, my official ML duties are over! Awwwww, it’s been fun, but now this is where the real work starts. We have our 50,000 words, so now what? The theme this month on the old blog will be editing, and to start us off, a guest post by Bridget Whelan who teaches Creative Writing. I think this will be very handy 😉

After NaNoWriMo
Three bite-size guides to editing and revising your NaNoWriMo novel.


Write drunk, edit sober – Ernest Hemingway

The relief is wonderful. Nanowrimo is over, done and dusted for another year. You have so much freedom and so much time to do other things. Some of you may even have a NanNoWriMo certificate to prove you took the challenge and won and – as long as you didn’t write your name over and over again – you should be proud of yourself. Very proud.
​Of course, some of us didn’t mange 50,000 words, but as long as you have more words written now than you did on November 1st you’ve made an important step in your development as a writer. And you know that yourself until a small steely voice sounds in your head and says, it’s all rubbish. And the bits that aren’t rubbish have been done before.
​That’s the voice that stops you writing. That’s the voice that NaNoWriMo silences with a frenzy of activity. That’s the voice of an editor. It’s a mean-spirited companion, dismissive of hard work and effort. It won’t offer any rewards for sticking with it, reaching goals and staying up late. All it cares about is what’s on the page and when you come to look at what you’ve written during NaNoWriMo, that’s all you should be care about too. Even when it means blood on the floor.

Three things to do before you pick up a red pen or press delete

1) Rest and Recover. You wrote in a fever. You need the story to settle in your mind and you also need to create some distance if you’re going to listen to that editor’s voice. How long? At least two weeks.
2) Read. Anything except your NaNoWriMo novel. Read poetry for the language. Read cheap trashy novels you hate to learn what not to do. Read cheap trashy novels you love to learn how they captured you. Read action novels for pace and crime fiction for suspense. Read horror and speculative fiction for imagination and fairy tales for permission to push the boundaries (A brother and sister abandoned by their parents and enslaved by a female cannibal? Did you go as wild during NaNoWriMo as Hansel and Gretel?)
3) Watch the video of Kurt Vonnegut describing how to plot a best seller. It will have you laughing and thinking.

Four things to do when you read your NaNoWriMo novel again

1) Breath deeply. Dive in. If you can, try to read all the way through in one sitting. Ignore your emotions: horror, embarrassment, mild pleasure, surprise. Read with a pen in your hand and summarise every chapter (or five thousands words if it isn’t broken down into chapters yet). No one will see these notes so they can be as clunky as you like. Stick to about 100 words for each summary – these are working notes and shouldn’t take up too much of your writing time
2) Imagine you are being interviewed on radio. How would you describe your main character? What does your main character want? No waffle: be specific. The radio audience won’t like vague phrases about rites of passage or someone finding themselves.
3) Even if you have written The End in big bold letters and drawn a line underneath it, consider possible alternative ways of resolving the issues in your NaNoWriMo novel.
4) Ask yourself if you want to spend a lot of time living with this story and the people who inhabit it. Vikki described herself as being haunted by the story she was trying to tell in first Nanowrimo writing. That’s a very good place for a writer to be.

Coming up in PART TWO (tomorrow) five ways of editing that first rough draft.

A great article Bridget, I will definitely be following your advice 🙂

Please leave a comment for Bridget with your thoughts and opinions, or pop over to Bridget’s Blog to say Hi

40 thoughts on “After NaNoWrimo – Editing Part 1

  1. Great tips. I was discussing my story with a friend and how my feelings ( not so good ones) differed from last year. The story moved me and then after I wrote it I hated it. This year, the same story makes me feel nothing but ambivelant. My friend mentioned that this may be a good thing because I won’t be as emotional when I go back to edit. And while I don’t care for the story right now (and think it feels jumbled), I actually feel like my writing is much more solid this year. Sorry for the ramble…

    Looking forward to more tips.


    • Not a ramble at all….lots of mixed emotions when you finish the first draft of a substantial piece of work, and doubts, loads of doubts…if it is ever going out to the wider world you have to believe the story is worth telling but there are times you just want to print it out, tear it up and scatter it to the winds…


  2. Thank you. I’ll be reading all the posts for help. I finished at 11:45 last night, thanks to encouragement from yourself and many others. I still have a bit more to write of this first draft, but I’m looking forward to editing. That’s a good sign, right? But first, which book shall I read? Mmmm.


  3. Love this post. I haven’t got time to watch the video now but ill do it tomorrow. I’ve sent my NaNo effort off to my writing partner for his notes and in the new year we’ll get it tidied up and readable 🙂


    • Your editing plan makes a lot of sense — a month should give you that cool-headed distance that’s so useful for revision and reflection. I think Aristotle recommended nine years, but that’s a tad excessive! Enjoy Kurt…


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  5. The video is so funny! Good stuff. 🙂
    I’m almost done with my NaNo story, and I love it so much that it will hard to put it away even for a few weeks! I like the idea of reading and making short notes after every chapter. I’ve done that with some of the chapters already, as I made notes about what I thought might need to change– since it’s inadvisable to go back and do it right there in the midst of NaNo.

    I’m looking forward to Bridget’s next installments. 🙂


    • Great to hear that you’re in love – way to go! Once you have a detailed outline it’s easier to check if story lines (and some characters) peter out half way and answer important questions like whose story is it (not always obvious when you’re writing), ad why and how has the protagonist changed during the course of the novel….


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