A nice surprise on this rainy Thursday (well, it's rainy here): a guest post from the wonderful Brenna Aubrey. (Memorize her name: it's going to be all over the historical romance section in a year or two, if I have anything to say about it.)
The Care and Feeding of Your NaNoWriMo Draft
November has faded to a blurry memory of sleep deprivation and word count angst. Thanksgiving leftovers have vanished and, with luck, you’ve had a chance to recuperate some of your lost sleep and reconnect with those strangers you used to call friends and family.
And you have 50,000 words of a vomit draft sitting on your hard drive. What on earth do you do with the mess you’ve created and how can it grow up to become a pretty manuscript that readers will want to pet and love and name “George”?
Here are some tips and tricks for the care and feeding of your brand new baby draft:
1) Put it to bed: And by that I mean tuck it away somewhere safe, don’t look at it and TRY NOT TO THINK ABOUT for at least a week or two, more, if you can spare the time. Read a good book, plan your next project, do some research. Consider it your writing sorbet, palate cleanser for the brain.
2) A loving note to your draft will let it know you are thinking of it: After your rest period, but before you do a read-through, sit down and write out a BRIEF synopsis of what the story is about. This is the bare-bones skeleton of your story, the structure upon which it will hang.
3) Spend quality time together: Once steps 1 and 2 are complete, mark out a block of time, preferably a day or two, where you can sit undisturbed for hours at a time (hard trick for you parents, I know!) and read through the draft.
4) Spare the rod, spoil the draft: Make heavy use of your red (or whatever color you prefer) pen. Or, if you edit electronically, make notes as you read. DO NOT make the additions/edits needed on this first read-through, though. You are reading and noting what needs to stay, what needs to go, and what is missing.
5) Make it pretty: Now that you’ve made all those ugly edit notes, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work. Bite the bullet and hit the delete key on the scenes that aren’t working. If it’s too hard to kiss them goodbye, then make a “deleted scenes” file and stick them there. Telling yourself that no delete is 100% permanent will help you murder the requisite darlings.
6) Socialization: NOW is the time to show off the draft to your trusted circle of critique partners. New sets of eyes going over your draft is a MUST! They aren’t just correcting punctuation, typos and word-choices, however. Ask your critique partner for observations on overall structural issues such as characterization, plot development and emotional realism. At this stage, those overall observations can be far more valuable than line critiques.
7) More Grooming: Once you have your notes back from your cps, it’s time to get back to that draft, yet again. Take their notes, assimilate their observations and apply them to the draft.
8) Expand the circle of friends: Your draft is up and coming and on its way to becoming a real manuscript! Now find some friends, real readers who like the genre you are writing, and ask them to take a look. In the “biz” we call them beta-readers. They are beta-testing your story to see if it’s ready for the real world.
9) Spit shine and fine-tooth comb: Fix the issues your betas have pointed out, if any. Then do passes for tightening language, clip out those troublesome adverbs, edit for word choice, subtext and voice. Untangle those overwritten passages and clunky sentences. Get down to the nitty gritty.
10) Take it out on the town! Your draft has grown up to a manuscript now! And though you won’t be shaking your head fondly, wiping away the tears (unless they are tears of relief) and asking yourself “Where has the time gone?” you won’t regret any of the hard work you’ve put into it.
My NaNoWriMo draft from 2010 took a lot of care and feeding. By the time it went out on submission to agents, only about 20% of the original structure remained. But in the end, it was worth it and I’m please to say that I have a fantastic agent now!
Best of luck with the care and feeding of your NaNoWriMo draft.
Brenna is an aspiring author of Regency Historical Romance and Fantasy fiction. When not dreaming up people and worlds and writing them down, she is also a mom, wife, teacher, avid reader, French-speaking Francophile, and lover of nature.