Why You Should Edit Your NaNoWriMo Novel Now

This is post #11 in a fifteen post series, entitled “15 Days to Writerly Awesome in 2015,”  posting on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday of January.

the above photo is a modified adaptation of this work

Below is a guest post from my dear friend Marissa Fuller, editor extraordinaire:

January is a time for reflecting on the past year. Just a few months ago now, many of us writerly folk participated in NaNoWriMo, if I’m not much mistaken. If you haven’t started already, you’ve likely been popping your head into your office/ water closet/ cupboard under the stairs, or wherever it is you keep your laptop, thinking it’s about time to get to editing that NaNo manuscript. On the other hand, you may have already finished editing it! I know a few people who pitched and queried their NaNo manuscripts in December (??!!@##UHFSOA).

Here’s the thing—you wrote that manuscript within the confines of a month. It could be absolute gold, but there is no getting around the fact that it was written in thirty days or less. For most of us, that means we just jotted down our story as fast as we could, not giving ourselves many moments to sit and think on the perfect phrasing (this is what drove me mad during NaNoWriMo), or the proper scene sequence, or to mix in the right amount of foreshadowing. Here's why you should edit your NaNoWriMo novel now:

Breathe in Edits

Take your time in editing. Just do a couple hours a day (a week!) if that’s what your manuscript needs. Mull over plot changes, edit out of order—give yourself the time you didn’t take while creating in NaNoWriMo. Even thought you wrote something quickly, you still have to put in the hours in other ways, like editing.

New writers might think that editing is basically syntax and punctuation corrections, and that alone. The truth of the matter is, your manuscript is born out of editing. Edits could (and should) change your manuscript in a huge way, even more so if you’re having a professional edit your manuscript as well.

It’s no small task, and it’s not something that can be done in a rush. Your first few drafts are just as, if not more, important than your first, because you continue to write and to learn your story as you weave through it.

Let your manuscript breathe the sweet air of change, of growth, of synonyms that liven the language and bring it to a whole new level. Oh, and did I mention? You should probably breathe, too.

How to Find a Freelance Editor for Your Book

This is post #10 in a fifteen post series, entitled “15 Days to Writerly Awesome in 2015,”  posting on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday of January.

If you've been keeping up with #TATM, you'll know that I finished writing my novel just recently. The next step? Self-editing. You can review my tips here. And finally, here I am, looking for a freelance editor. If you're publishing traditionally, your literary agent will hook you up with a publishing house, where they have happy little editor elves waiting for you. (I realize I'm oversimplifying.)

For self-publishers or writers prepping their stories to seek representation, finding a freelance editor is key. Hint: this is easier said than done. Hint: you probably already knew this. Read on for all of my editor-hunting secrets:

Social Media Rules

In order to find a freelance editor, look to your friends. Ask your writer tribe who they have used in the past. Google, of course, is always a great resource. But here's my secret. For me, I found my lovely new editor through Pinterest. That's right. When I researched finding an editor on Pinterest, it led me to the Freelancer's Union website, where I then found my new editor. When it comes to seeking support for your novel, you've got to get a little creative.

Ask for a Sample Edit

Once you've narrowed down your list of potential editors, it's time to see if you're compatible. Think of it as dating, but the stakes are higher, because this is your book for crying out loud. Pay attention to the response time in your interactions with these potentials. (This can be really telling of how available they will be to you.) When you receive the edit back, compare each editor's notes. Tip: Don't mistake a lack of notes as an indication that your writing is flawless. You are not Beyoncé.

Ask the Right Questions

  • What is your editing process? This is when your editor-to-be will explain how he/she works. Pay attention. Does this timeline work with your publishing schedule? Does this editor give ample amount of notes? Will you receive the edited book all at once or in small doses?
  • Are you available soon? Some editors will book months in advance. Availability is key to actually getting to work with your editor of choice.
  • What is your previous experience? On his/her website, your editor most likely listed credentials and reviews from past clients. Still, it's important to hear this directly from your editor. Tip: Try to get the editor on the phone. It's a much more effective form of communication. 
  • What are your rates? Do you offer package deals? This is the tricky part. Editors are not cheap, people. Choose ahead of time what kind of service you're looking to purchase. For me, I'm doing four chapters of developmental editing, and an evaluation for the remainder. I highly recommend hiring someone as a proofreader, at the very least. Once you decide this, think budget. What are you willing to pay for a good editor as well as for each type of service?

And that's all, folks! Back to the writing cave, I go. #TATM will be sent off to editing on February 11th, so I've got my work cut out for me. Happy writing!

Discussion Time: Have you ever hired a freelance editor? If not, do you plan to? Please ask any further questions below!

A Lesson in Editing and A #TATM Update

This one goes out to all you post-NaNoers. And everyone else knee-deep in the thick of their own rambling, misspelled words. Last week, I talked a little bit about how I just recently merged my dual timelines, and now I'm all, "Holy Heck, this looks like a book." When I made this merge, I realized there were a few filler scenes that I needed to finish writing, before I could print out the dang thing and get a good look at it. I'm happy to say that I only have two more filler scenes + the final scene (which I am shaking in my boots just thinking about) until I can move forward with what I consider to be my second draft editing.

When people say that writing is hard work, I think they really mean editing is hard work. Dear Lord, is it tough. My second draft of These are the Moments is a mix of edited and non-edited chapters, that I am fully prepared to hack into with my pink pen (red's too creepy) once all of the writing is done, done, done. I have a strategy, I promise you. First step, write the book: check. Second step: merge the timelines: check. And for my editing plan? Well, it goes a little something like this (ten points if you caught that Aaron Carter reference):

An In-Depth Read-Through

This is what writer people like to call "macro edits." Big picture stuff. My first read-through isn't going to be a hey, I think you missed a comma there kind of reading. It's going to be a you gave that girl two different last names and a what happened to the cat kind of editing. Here's what to look for in this stage:

  • Subplots: Do they each have enough "screen time," so to speak? Are they evolving? Is there a resolution? For example, my main character, Wendy, and her relationship with her sister Claudia is an integral subplot. They begin the novel a little distant, their age difference acting as a kind of barrier, and by the end, well…. you'll see.
  • Themes: What's your story trying to say? And more importantly, how well is it communicating that message? I'm not a huge believer in the bold, HEY THIS IS THE THEME method. I think stories affect everyone in different ways. Example: one theme of TATM is the idea of growing up and dealing with that post-college phase of your life. This is communicated through her living at home again, getting used to a full-time job and trying to be self-sufficient. In the end, Wendy has to realize that she's an adult now. But it takes a while to get to that point!
  • Transitions: This one is doubly important for me, as I'm basically making two stories fit to one. But in general, is your story fitting together? Can readers follow your zigs and zags? My story covers ten years of livin' so it's especially important for me to keep readers grounded in when things are happening. The last thing you want is for a reader to get confused. They'll most likely give up.

Keep notes from your first reading. In a notebook or in the margins of your print-out. Whatever you feel most comfortable with!

Review and Edit

Wow, what a whirlwind, huh? Okay, now's the part where you go back and check out all the crazy notes you made. Then make the changes. This might involve big edits, like reworking full scenes, or minor edits like cutting sentences or paragraphs. On the first round, try to focus on the big issues first, and then trickle your way down to the baby fixes. With TATM, I don't anticipate too many total scene reworkings. I conquered a good deal of that when I transferred my scenes from paper to computer.

Was that so bad? Yeah, it was. I'm not gonna lie to you. But guess what! It gets easier… I think. The next step is another read-through, with a narrower focus. Look for things like hey I use the word "look" a heck of a lot and okay, I need to vary those sentences a bit. Actually, now that I think about it, this step might be even tougher than the first. I tend to drive myself crazy over this kind of thing, over thinking it, when I should just leave well alone. Hey Jenny, nobody cares how many times you used the word blue. They just don't. Keep a little perspective, I'd say. After this round of edits, make the changes. Read, Edit, Repeat. More and more focused with each cycle. You get it.

END NOTE: This has nothing to do with anything in this post, but I'm currently reading a fantastic set of e-books on self-publishing, called The Indie Author Power Pack: How To Write, Publish, & Market Your Book. I highly recommend!

What's your best advice on the editing process? No, really. Help a sister out.