The Big Post-NaNo Problem: Editing

Status: Just spent a day with my friends, chilling out and playing computer (or in my case, watching them play while I read and doodled).

Dear Reader,

If you’re like me, you’re recovering from NaNo. NaNo is our life, we live for it (and I will be eagerly anticipating Screnzy come April, and Camp NaNo come July/August), but it is exhausting work. Really, really exhausting work. Right now, it’s like coming back from of the most wonderful parties in the world, and where you stood around the punchbowl with other people thinking “Good G-d, I am never going finish my novel”, “How am I going to ever look at this novel again”, and “Can I just go dig myself into a hole and die already”. No doubt, the punch is delicious, the people were wonderful conversation, but while you were at it you were dancing on a word document, furiously pumping out those moves and getting those words out on the floor.

You’re going to be burnt out, and you’re going to want to slump on the floor and die, at least without the commitment.

And you know, that is perfectly okay.

You just went through a marathon of self-possessed manic aggression, bouts of unrequited insanity, and furious spammage of your coffee and tea maker. It is understandable that your entire body and mind might be ready to fall over and fall to pieces. Right now, doing anything like writing is not a good thing for yourself, especially if you don’t feel like you’re up to it. I wrote over 200k this NaNo, and that’s almost 7000 words a day. I finished NaNo with a cumulative wordcount of 212121, and with 31930 words written on the last day itself. My hands are in agony, and it was a tough workout just doodling idly on my sketchbook! I am most certainly not ready to write anything just yet, much less begin the even harder task of editing. (As of this point I must congratulate my wife, Tassel, for completing her own novel. She wrote almost the entire novel in 2 days, and validated on the dot of midnight as well! She deserves so much praise.)

Editing is a tough thing, reader. I do not make lightly of it. It is the most fun thing to do, editing that is, but it is exhausting. Your NaNovel is going to be like that baby that just came out of the mother’s womb – ugly, wrinkly, and looking like that thing that you would want to throw into the neighbour’s yard (if you can excuse my really offensive metaphor, but babies really scare me, alright?). It is going to need time to cry itself out, it is going to need a bath, a towel, a cot, and a big bottle of milk to get it ready to get onto the path of growing up. But like any parent, you’re going to love your child, and you’re going to be frustrated with him/her/zir at times. Editing is like raising a child. It is tough work.

People ask me sometimes how I edit my work. It is a tough thing to say, and to be frank I would have to say every person’s writing technique is unique and I am flattered by people who have asked me on my writing process. But you know, for editing, I can toss out a few points that I make use of, and you can take (with a pinch of salt).

1 – Take some time off your novel.

This is important. You need time to gain some perspective on your writing, and if you’re like me, you would have been neglecting your reading while you were engaged in NaNo. Reading is essential for you as a writer, and it would be fantastic to get a good book out to read, and appreciate. Take a week, take a month, but remember, when you are ready (and don’t procrastinate!), get back to your novel.

You’re going to need time for the entire novel you’ve invented out of your mind to settle into a calm pool of meditation and energy you can draw from to edit your novel. Refine your image and feel of the novel, and bring it to the editing process.

2 – Fix yourself up, before fixing your baby.

I came down with a cough and fever in the last month of NaNo (unfortunately, I don’t know why, because I was treating myself pretty healthy, I would believe). I still suffer from traces of my cough, and I feel like I’ve been getting a bit out of shape while I was writing. Take time to get out and restructure your body, and feel good about yourself. Address your own issues (like a social life, your partner, your pets, and your children), before attending to your novel. It would be good to make sure your house won’t fall on you while you’re engrossed in editing your novel.

3 – Knit everything together. Make the links strong.

When I edit, I edit by chapter, with the end in mind. Each chapter I address holistically, taking note of what it lacks, and touching it up. I add what I think is needed, till each chapter can stand on its own. Then I look at each chapter and how it progresses to the next. Does it make sense, does it work? Your writing intuition can help you with that. The ‘feel’ of your novel is essential, such that you can work towards it. The heartbeat of your novel. Find it, use it.

4 – Consult an Outside Opinion.

Beta-readers are beautiful. They bring additional, fresh insight to your novel. Take care to find a good reader. Don’t find someone who can’t tell you their honest opinion,  but also find someone that gives constructive criticism. A good beta-reader is an invaluable tool.

5 – Never be afraid to make a change.

If you must make a cut, make it. If you must take something apart, do so. Don’t let your fear of destroying your novel hold you back. Copy your story into a new document, and start there. Everything gets worse before it can get better.

—–

With Warm Regards,
Jasper

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