Things I’ve learned in editing my NaNoWriMo Novel…

1. Coming up with good character names in the midst of cranking out 50,000 words in 30 days is not my strongest suit.

My fabulous critique partners were commenting on some of my lesser characters and when I said their names aloud, I just closed my eyes and shook my head. I’d named two of my characters Hans and Leah. (Cue the Star Wars theme music.) How had that even happened? I’m not really sure, and granted “Leah” isn’t exactly “Leia…” Time for me to use that magic “find + replace” feature.

2. If I took out all of the “he nodded” or “she nodded” in the manuscript, I’m pretty sure I’d be a far cry from having reached 50,000 words. 

Everyone has pet phrases, sure. But somehow, with this manuscript, my characters were doing so much nodding, I’m sure they’re going to need a chiropractor.

3. Sometimes, leaving “blanks” where I need to finish research and come back to fill in means more work later on. A lot more work. 

Needless to say, I’ve had to rework the plot a few times, re-edit the whole manuscript to align details, and I might rethink this strategy in the coming NaNoWriMo. Granted, with this story, there are a lot of little details that aren’t easily discovered, considering the foreign setting for the first half. It is also based on a true story and I wanted to honor the real tale while adding my own twists. It’s all working itself out – slowly, but surely.

4. Once you lose the NaNoWriMo momentum, it is hard to get it back.

This year, I’m focusing on discipline and setting up better daily routines. Because I have so many things I want to accomplish, this is just a reality. While I’ve succeeded so far in some areas, my writing hasn’t maintained the same level of discipline. I’m working on that. Deadlines for critique groups are my saving grace.

5. Thank goodness for revision and editing. 

I cringe at the thought of my rough drafts ever being seen by anyone aside from me or a select writing partner. If anyone ever stumbles upon my rough drafts after my death and feels so inclined to publish said drafts, don’t. I’ll come and haunt you in your sleep.

I saw a quote the other day about every good novel you’ve enjoyed is a result of that writer cutting mercilessly – and it is true. Writing is more about careful revision than anything else.

Anyone else editing their NaNoWriMo novel? Or any manuscript? Do you discover something new about your writing every time you go through the process?


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Community Champion at Buffer ~ writer ~ reader ~ urban homesteader ~ former rodeo queen ~ @nmillerbooks

  • Love the chiropractor comment! It’s true we all have our pet phrases – and how we often don’t see them ourselves until revision. Thanks for this post – it’s good to know other writers struggle with these things.

  • No editing yet. Still have to finish the rough draft. Keyword: Still. Definitely know something about #4, since I took off pretty much the entire month of November. BIG mistake. I’ve done some writing in January, but not nearly enough so I’m going for a completed rough draft by Feb 15. Then the editing will begin. Kudos to you for your progress.

  • Thanks, Patricia! Hang in there and you’ll get through it! Having deadlines for yourself (and someone to hold you accountable) makes a big difference.

  • Thanks, Heather! I need to be better about killing those pet phrases, too. I’ve read not to even have two of the same phrases within each 50 pages or something like that… and I know I always notice it in other authors, but never in myself. (Thank goodness for “find” on Word!)

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