lisapizza asked you:

this is really a question for the end of the month, but now that i have a first draft, how do i edit it? i won nano a couple of years ago but trying to edit the behemoth was so intimidating that i never looked at it again.

If you have reached the end, CONGRATULATIONS TO YOU! (Or near the end! Or whatever! For the purposes of this answer I must assume that there is some kind of nearness to an end.) First, you must celebrate your achievement.

But you are right. Now, the work starts all over again. In many ways, in begins IN EARNEST, because now you have some material to work with. This is hard work, but rewarding. For many people, this is where the fun starts.

Writing, of course, is rewriting. I know, I know. You’ve heard it. But it’s true. Now that you’ve written it once, you really have to write it again. You might write it a few times. It may have taken 30 days to produce what you have now, but there is no telling how long this next part will take.

But FEAR NOT. Auntie MJ has tips. TIPS, mind you. Not instructions. How you do this is totally up to you, and everyone writes in their own way. But these are some things that many people find helpful.

1. Get away for a while. You’ve been looking at this thing for too long, and too closely. You don’t even know what you’re looking at anymore, do you? STEP AWAY FROM IT. You might want to take a few days, maybe even a week or two away from the book. I suggest picking an amount of time, though. Because some people step away and continue stepping away, and before you know it they are on the other side of the continent and running fast. Pick a date you’ll come back, and have things ready for yourself on that date. Nice clean desk. Nice mug. Nice fresh mindset.

2. Maybe send it out to some people to read. If you feel you have good readers, maybe see what people think. Be aware, though … a good reader is a wonderful thing, but sometimes hard to find. Some people will read your work and not want to offend you. Some people just give crappy notes. Pick people you think would be good at reading critically, people who can give you some solid feedback.

3. Or don’t. You don’t have to do step 2. A lot of people feel that first drafts are much too raw for comment.

4. Read it. Sit down and read it with your fresh eyes. The book may be different from what you remember.

5. Sketch out the plot. What happens? Graph it out. Make notes on what actual important thing happens in each chapter or section. Look at this as a whole.

6. Make your own notes. Give yourself a few major tasks to handle. First revisions are about BIG EDITS. You can do ANYTHING in a first revision. I usually blow my books up between the first and second draft and REBUILD it with the pieces.

7. Make a schedule for yourself. You got this draft done because you were following a structure. That’s how you do it the next time. Give yourself a reasonable, but not loverly loose, time perimeter. Decide how much you need to accomplish each week. Put your plan on your wall, or put it in your computer, or chisel it into a rock … just make it real and tangible.

8. Don’t be scared to GO BIG with the changes. Seriously. This is when you rip out HUGE SECTIONS like the HULK. That’s right. This is HULK EDIT! HULK SMASH DRAFT! MAKE NEW DRAFT!


The important thing is to KEEP GOING. I always say this BECAUSE IT IS TRUE.


Auntie MJ