I’m having so much fun with the book club, I almost forgot to write this post! Continuing the week of debuts, today is the start of Winter’s Editing & Revising Extravaganza (WERE)!
A brief rundown of what you can expect from WERE. Every Saturday in December, I will discuss ways to prepare for your novel’s second draft. Then in January, we’ll dive into our second drafts with checklists, exercises, and motivational mojo. This will probably carry over into February, since I doubt I can finish my second draft in one month. Please let me know if you have specific questions about second drafts, and I’ll do my best to answer them.
So maybe you just finished a first draft for National Novel Writing Month (NaNo). Or maybe you’re like me, and your first draft has sat on the back burner for months. Either way, my goal is to help you edit and revise that first draft.
If you just finished NaNo—don’t read your novel yet. Take a break from it and refresh yourself. Some people suggest one or two weeks without looking at it, others say one or two months. I’d recommend taking December off (which is already crazy with the holidays) and conquering that NaNo novel in the new year. The idea is to remove yourself from the web of your story and then return with some degree of objectivity. If we are too close to our work, it’s harder to delete the bad or unnecessary scenes.
If your first draft has been collecting dust for awhile, you won’t have to worry about objectivity. But you may have to worry about motivation. Perhaps you’re thinking, “Should I really waste my time rewriting this antique piece of junk? Maybe I should just start over with something new.” Or perhaps your current schedule seems too full. After a long break from writing, it can be hard to get back in the swing of it.
I happen to believe that all first drafts deserve a chance at a second draft. Sure, it may seem like junk now . . . but revision can do wonders. Plus, revision time is never a waste. You’ll learn so much about writing in the process of rewriting.
So if you’re willing to try but don’t know how to start, look no farther . . .
The Five R’s of Rediscovering the Writing Joy:
1. Revisit. What made you first fall in love with the story idea? A place? A person? A song? Whatever it was, return to it. I like to spend time in nature for my inspiration. And if I hear a song from my first-draft playlist, I’m immediately transported into the story. I also try to find new, exciting songs for the second draft. The story may be old, but it has the potential for new and better things.
2. Revamp. Need a change of pace from your old writing routine? How about a change of scenery? Try creating a unique writing space for yourself. I realize not everyone has sole access to an office/writing room, but maybe you could carve a niche in your bedroom or other room. Renovate an old desk, decorate the walls with things from your story, and make the space comfortable and user-friendly. After all the work you put into it, you’ll feel guilty if you don’t make good use of it!
3. Readjust. If you’re anything like me, free time sounds like some distant dream. If you can’t find time to write, then you make time. Writers don’t just wake up inspired and type all day (and if they do, I’m insanely jealous). They probably snatch precious writing moments out of a crazy schedule. So stop and think about your typical schedule. If necessary, keep a detailed journal for a couple days. Do you have times when you’re waiting for class or riding the bus? Any television programs you could live without? Cut what you can and take advantage of every minute. Even thirty minutes of writing per day can add up to a finished second draft.
4. Read. Ever read a fabulous book and felt inspired to write? I know I have. Reading will not only make you a better writer, it will also motivate you to write your own book for others to read. Read fiction for fun, and read nonfiction to learn more about the subjects in your story. You’ll need a notebook, or writing software, or some type of file for keeping track of your research. I know this sounds like work, but it’s essential for making your stories realistic and credible.
5. Reward. Hey, our human natures demand something in return for the hard work of editing and revising. So set a goal and pick a suitable reward. Write it down and stick it to your wall or desk. Something like, If I finish my second draft, I get to splurge on books/a writing conference/a new desk/enter most coveted wish here. Personally, my reward is getting to send the story to my critique partners. I can’t bear to let them see the first draft, even though I’m dying to share the story with them. So I’ll keep them in mind as I struggle with the second draft, like dangling a carrot in front of a donkey. Speaking of critique partners, recruit them to cheer you on! They can crack the whip if necessary, or nag you, or bribe you, or beg you to “finish the dang thing so I can read it already!” A good critique partner is worth his or her weight in gold.
Your assignment this week, if you choose to accept it: get started on the five R’s. Fall in love with writing again. Treat yourself to a remodeled work space. Schedule in writing/reading time. Read a book and start researching (this could take all month and more). Think of a reward for finishing your second draft.
Then report back here! I want to hear about your progress and your ideas. Need help? Just ask! And tune in next Saturday for more!