So a USA Today Bestselling author who is also a participant of NaNoWriMo. Her 2010 NaNoWriMo story became a bestseller. These are her tips for revising her NaNoWriMo stories.
1. Read it through in its entirety, but don’t get hung up on nitpick-y editing. At this stage I’m looking to see what the heck I’ve written and make notes of any changes I’d need to make. Some of these are big-picture thoughts I write in the Notes section for that scene in Scrivener, or it’s a footnote I’ve added to a word or sentence.
At this point, I’m only concentrating on the big picture—the bones of the story. This is the Emergency Room stage—your story is bleeding, the plot has so many holes, or is missing an entire limb, and so you should only be figuring out what the massive wounds might be and how to fix them. Don’t worry about the small cuts. Not yet. Resist.
2. As I’m going through, I also write down a short summary of each scene in the Synopsis “card” in Scrivener.
3. Once done, I go back through each “card” and make sure that the scene has a goal, motivation, and conflict, or if it’s a sequel scene or transition scene, I make note of that and see what might need to be added. This is a final check to make sure I haven’t missed some important story bones.
4. I then take a deep breath and see if I can write down a 25-30 word or less “logline”. If I can’t succinctly capture the protagonist, their goal, and the conflict, while also getting across the tone and genre, I know my story could be in trouble.
Some of you plotters might have already done this before you even started writing—make sure it still applies!
5. If I’m really having trouble seeing the “shape” of the story, I print out the scene synopses and make notes on there, marking and shifting things around. It’s essential to find some way of seeing your story as a whole, instead of getting mired down in the words. Believe me, that’s a quick way to feel like you’re drowning in revisions, unable to get a grasp of what needs to be done.
6. Once I’ve let all this marinate and plugged in all the notes where they could be tackled in Scrivener, I start revising. But, I don’t do it by starting from the beginning and editing and changing as I go. I only dip into the parts of the story that I marked during the read through. This keeps me focused on the big picture. It also has the added benefit of preventing story fatigue.
I’ve found that the fewer times I have to read the story, the fresher it stays and the less of a chance I get sick of it by the time I’m ready to publish. The scene synopses help at this stage to keep me oriented so I don’t have to reread each scene.
7. Then I read it again, smoothing out the patches as I go, and hand it off to my Alpha reader.
After that, it goes through what I’d call edits, instead of revisions, and that’s a different tactic. But I do another revision pass after it comes back from the Alpha reader (again only dipping into the parts that need fixing).
Next, it goes to the developmental editor I’ve hired in the past. Then I use a color-coding highlighting system to help me self-edit—this is basically my own line editing pass. Then it goes to my Beta readers, then to my line editor/copy editor. I incorporate changes, and then hand it off to two separate proofreaders before I’m ready to format and publish.
But, as I said earlier, I didn’t have all this in place when I first started. So if you don’t have a critique group or Alpha and Beta readers, don’t despair. ForBreeches, I participated in several forums and used a ton of Beta readers until I found ones that were solid. I also found places like critiquecircle.com extremely helpful in learning and honing my craft. Many people read chapters (or the whole story) there and helped me get it into shape.
How you handle revisions will be depend on how you think and perhaps how you drafted—are you a plotter or a pantser?—so have patience as you learn what works for you. The important thing to keep in mind:
Take it in stages, working from big fixes down to small fixes.
There is no sense in fine-tuning the cadence of a sentence in the opening scene, getting it just perfect, and then realizing that the whole first scene needs to go because it doesn’t do what you need it to do for the sake of your story.