After NaNoWriMo – Editing Part 2

Part 2 of the guest post by Bridget Whelan which I’ll be making much use of this month 😉

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


Put down everything that comes into your head and then you’re a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff’s worth, without pity, and destroy most of it – Collette

Five ways of editing that first rough draft

1) Cut and cut again. Be brutal. You thought you’d written 50,000 words of your NaNoWriMo novel? The harsh truth is that you probably need to ditch 20,000 of those words. You’ve got a copy of the original so you can chuck everything away knowing you have the freedom to change your mind. In fact, keep a copy of every major revision. It gives you confidence knowing that nothing is lost, and that every major change can be undone. The reality is that once paragraphs, pages and chapters have been deleted you’ll wonder how they ever had a home in your manuscript.

2) Remember that adjectives don’t get lonely: they do not have to travel around in pairs – the kind and pleasant man; the warm, dry day. Every time you see two together ask yourself which one you really, really need. Or if you need any.

3) Take a long, hard look at any descriptive passages, especially the ones you like the best. Samuel Johnson said that if he you ever come across a sentence he had written that struck him as being particularly elegant and finely crafted then he knew he had to cut it. It was probably written for his own enjoyment rather than because it helped the reader to understand what was going on.

4) Have you started in the right place? Classic advice is to start a story in MEDIAS RES – in the middle – in other words dive in. Have you chosen to start your NaNoWriMo novel a long time before the big event occurs? Why? If the answer is because it’s a good introduction or it sets the stage, then cut. Sometimes we write a beginning more for ourselves than the reader. We are working our way into the story, getting a feel for the characters and their take on the world. You might need that introduction to get you started, the reader doesn’t. So, write it if it helps you to launch a story and cut it out at the editing stage – which is now.

4) Show don’t tell is the command burnt into the heart of every creative writing student, but sometimes it’s ok to tell. The reader can’t live through every moment. Use dialogue to dramatise the big scenes, or the moments where important elements of character are revealed. It is not for the ordinary do-you-want-a-cup-of-tea exchanges (or boring small talk at parties unless it propels the narrative in some way.)
5) Don’t introduce all the characters at once. Do it one at a time with a little physical description or back story so we can remember them. (For example: Cara tucked a strand of her sand coloured behind her ear and swore softly, her previous career as an advertising writer meant she knew how to make words work for her.) Ask yourself if you have to give a name to all the minor characters. Remember that a name may be the least interesting thing about them. They could appear as their job or the function they carry out in the story. For example: the teacher said…. the neighbour smiled…

Courtesy of Carlos Porto freedigitalphotos

Coming up in PART THREE six tips that will help you get your NaNoWriMo novel ready for a reader. But if you want to read that post, you’ll have to pop over to Bridget’s blog tomorrow 😉

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