4 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your NaNoWriMo Manuscript

November is history, and so is NaNoWriMo 2016. If you’re like most NaNoWriMo participants, you’re pretty excited about ending November with 50,000 words—maybe you have the first draft of a novel, maybe only a third of a longer manuscript. Nevertheless, you’ve written a bodacious number of words in thirty days, and you’ve accomplished something pretty spectacular.

For thousands of would-be novelists, December means it’s time to start down the path to publishing.

Please don’t be one of those writers who rushes to publication. Instead, try these four ideas: Continue reading “4 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your NaNoWriMo Manuscript”

An Editor’s Skill Set, Part II: Accuracy and Honesty

Writing requires a set of skills that took you years to perfect. Many skills I use in my work as a freelance editor are skills I have honed over the years, too. In Part I of this series, I discussed Research, Observation, and Brevity as they relate to the editing work I do for authors. Today I’ll like to talk about Accuracy and Honesty, two personal attributes that I consider important skills when writing and editing.

Accuracy

Many people don’t realize how much background work is involved in bringing a manuscript to publication. Copyediting (sometimes called line editing) includes fact checking, which can be a time-consuming process, especially for nonfiction work. Even works of fiction require fact checking; for example, if one of your characters plays basketball, I’ll check the spelling of terminology—three pointer or three-pointer? Consistency matters, too: If that character was 6’1” in one chapter and 5’11’ in a later chapter, I’ll bring that to your attention. As a freelance editor, I work diligently to be sure my client doesn’t publish inaccurate or inconsistent information, and that includes everything from the spelling of a corporate name (Wal-Mart or Walmart?) to correct citations (Wikipedia is not considered a reliable source for citations, by the way).

Honestyeditors-honesty

Fitting hand-in-glove with accuracy is honesty. Sadly, sometimes writers don’t understand their obligation to cite an idea that came from somewhere else, and instead they write as though a concept is their own, original idea, or worse, they copy a phrase or paragraph and change a few words here and there to “make it their own.” If you don’t know how to properly present someone else’s words or ideas, I can help you do so.

Many nonfiction authors use chapter opening quotations in their books, so I verify the accuracy of those wordings—and the spelling of the contributor’s name—whenever possible. (If I had a dollar for every time I saw Mother Teresa’s name spelled Mother Theresa . . .) Continue reading “An Editor’s Skill Set, Part II: Accuracy and Honesty”

3 Things You Should NOT Do with Your NaNoWriMo Novel

The end of November is fast approaching, and with it comes the end of NaNoWriMo. The blog posts I’ve read this month have been filled with frenzied accounts of growing word counts and even some samples of WIPs, and for anyone who isn’t participating, November can make you feel like the kid who nobody wants on their team.3 Things You Should NOT Do with Your NaNoWriMo Novel

I’m an outsider.

No, I didn’t participate in NaNoWriMo this year. But I’ve been right there in spirit, and I hope my comments on some of your blogs have been helpful. (That Week 2 slump is a killer, isn’t it?)

But the end is in sight, and those of you who will “win” NaNo are already intoxicated by the sweet smell of success.

Those who won’t make it have nonetheless learned some valuable lessons about writing, yourself, and your approach to writing—so truly, there is no such thing as NOT winning NaNoWriMo because whether you make that 50,000 word count or not, you’re a better writer now than you were a month ago.

By the way, I agree with Chuck Wendig’s comments about the language of NaNoWriMo, specifically “winning” and “losing.”

This isn’t a game of Monopoly, after all. It’s not a race in which one competes.

It’s writing a book. If you finish your book on December 1st, or January 3rd or May 15th, you still won. Because HOLY SHIT YOU FINISHED A NOVEL.

The goal is to write a book whether it takes you one month or one year—failing to complete 50,000 words in a month that contains Thanksgiving and the ramp up to Christmas should never be regarded as a loser move.”

3 Things You Should NOT Do with Your #NaNoWriMo Novel Click To Tweet

So whether you’ve already finished your first draft or you expect to do so sometime in 2015, here are three things you shouldn’t do when you cross the finish line:

1.   Don’t throw anything away.

Is your 50,000 word first draft ready for publication? Of course not—but neither should it be deleted from your hard drive. Yes, there are allegedly writers who do that, but please do NOT become one of them.

Even if you’re a writer who believes the act of putting your butt in a seat for 30 days and churning out the bones of a novel is enough of a reward without having to ever read what you wrote, please believe that you’ve written some gems.

Okay, maybe you’ll delete some—or most—of those 50,000 words, but save them in a separate folder. In a month or two you may reread a well-turned phrase you’d forgotten about and will have a brainstorm for an entirely new scene . . . or character . . . or novel!

2.    Don’t begin editing your manuscript.

You’ve spent plus or minus thirty days with this manuscript—and if you outlined in October, that number goes up. Believe me, now is NOT the time to begin editing. You’re too close to your story, and let’s face it—you’ve had an exhausting, emotional month.

Do a happy dance, pat yourself on the back, announce to the world (or at least your Facebook friends) that YOU DID IT, and then put your manuscript away for a while.

For how long? Opinions vary on this one, but long enough that when you open it up again, the story feels new and fresh in that “I can’t believe I wrote this” way. That might be a month or a year, but it shouldn’t be tomorrow. Give yourself some time away to gain a little perspective, and you’ll have more clarity once you being to edit and revise.

Taking a very rough first draft and molding it into a saleable novel will require some ruthless revising and self editing, so give yourself enough time away to gain perspective. As Chuck Wendig writes, “Repeat the mantra: Writing is when I make the words. Editing is when I make them not shitty.”

Award-winning indie author Jade Kerrion knows firsthand how valuable those revisions can be:

NaNo novels are rarely much good at the end of November (but then again, what first drafts are?) However, given enough editing, they can grow into gems. My 2010 NaNo novel became Perfection Unleashed and went on to win six awards. My 2011 NaNo novel, Earth-Sim, picked up 1st place in Young Adult Fiction at the 2013 Royal Palm Literary Awards, and my 2012 novel, When the Silence Ends, took 2nd place in Young Adult Fiction, 2013 Royal Palm Literary Awards.”

Impressive, huh? And notice the awards were won long after she finished NaNoWriMo each year.

3.    Don’t stop writing.

If you’re like most NaNoWriMo authors, you’re pretty excited about ending November with 50,000 words—maybe you have the first draft of a novel, maybe only a third of a longer manuscript, but nevertheless, you’ve written a bodacious number of words in thirty days, and you’ve accomplished something pretty spectacular.

So why quit now? You’ve proven to yourself that you can make the time to write every day, so wrap your mind around that new reality and keep writing.

Should you continue with the same manuscript? Begin a brand-new story? It doesn’t even matter, because you are a writer, and writers gotta write. I love the way author Abbie Plouff put it:

For me, this has been an invaluable month dedicated to writing and storytelling that put me back on the right track. It has shown me that yes, even when life is hectic and crazy, I can still carve out time to work on my writing. The habit of writing—finding time to work every single day, thinking about my novel when I have downtime, and other planning exercises has been invaluable.”

Writer Kathera has a different point of view:

50 K word goal accomplished but the story is not finished yet so I can’t stop now. I’m in the middle of a chase, and I want to find out how it ends. Theoretically I know the outcome, as I am following the outline, but something unexpected may happen, who knows?”

And Chuck Wendig offers:

It helps to look at your NaNoWriMo novel as the zero draft — it has a beginning, it has an ending, it has a whole lot of something in the middle. The puzzle pieces are all on the table and, at the very least, you’ve got an image starting to come together (“is that a dolphin riding side-saddle on a mechanical warhorse through a hail of lasers?”). But the zero draft isn’t done cooking. A proper first draft awaits. A first draft that will see more meat slapped onto those exposed bones, taking your word count into more realistic territory.”

In my book, every writer who even attempts NaNoWriMo should be congratulated. And although I know it will be a few months before those drafts are polished enough to make their way to an editor, I’m already looking forward to the day when that happens. For an editor, the thrill is in peeking under the hood, so to speak, and helping to polish a novel that was only an idea in your head a mere month ago. I can’t wait!

Happy Writing,

Candace

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Candace Johnson is a professional freelance editor, proofreader, writer, ghostwriter, and writing coach who has worked with traditional publishers, self-published authors, and independent book packagers on nonfiction subjects ranging from memoirs to alternative medical treatments to self-help, and on fiction ranging from romance to paranormal. As an editorial specialist, Candace is passionate about offering her clients the opportunity to take their work to the next level. She believes in maintaining an author’s unique voice while helping him or her create and polish every sentence to make it the best it can be. Learn more here.

For more great writing and publishing information, check out  Change It Up Editing and Writing Services on Facebook, where I share interesting articles and links about writing and publishing.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

Happy One Year Blogging Anniversary to Me!

I received official notification from WordPress that my blog is now a year old:

Wordpress

Thank you to friends, followers, and everyone in this wonderful writing community for your friendship and support. I love working with writers, and my goal for my blog posts is to provide useful content that will help you whether you write for publication or “just because.” In honor of this auspicious occasion, I’m listing links to some of my most popular articles and guest posts from the last 12 months, and I hope I’ve grouped these in a way that makes searching topics a bit easier for you. Feel free to add a comment on any of them—your comments are always welcome.

Self-Editing

Struggling with Revisions? Try Playing with Paper Dolls

Self-Editing Checklist for Fiction Writers Part I: Macro Issues Continue reading “Happy One Year Blogging Anniversary to Me!”

Dream a Dream

to-freelanceIn a previous post, I shared some of the reasons that went into my decision to become a full-time freelance editor a little over a year ago. I had a dream that I could make a living by editing for authors I truly cared about, and I’ve turned that dream into a reality. When I posted that blog, I received numerous comments, including this one that inspired the post you’re now reading:

“Have you ever turned down an editing assignment? What parameters do you set for yourself in considering assignments? For a brief time when I considered going full time freelance, the fear of having to take any and all assignments always brought me up short. Currently I have a day job that I’m happy with, but I’ve always wondered how freelancers manage their workload. Personally, I know that if I were totally reliant on freelance work, I would find it impossible to say “no” to anything.”

So here goes:

“Have you ever turned down an editing assignment?”

Yes, I have. I always offer a sample edit to authors who are looking for line editing or proofreading; occasionally, a writer who swears his manuscript needs nothing more than a spell check sends a sample that is clearly in need of more substantial editing.

If a manuscript is so full of major flaws that it reads more like a first draft, I won’t take the job. Correcting grammar or misspelled words won’t help a manuscript that is in need of major revision, and I would rather lose the work than take someone’s money when I know I am not really helping him or her. Continue reading “Dream a Dream”

3 Things You Shouldn’t Hire an Editor to Do

3 Things You Shouldn’t Hire an Editor to Do
Don’t waste your money–read this article first!

When authors contact me about editing, they often don’t even know what they need. They know they should hire an editor at some point, but many are confused about terminology like developmental editing, copyediting, and proofreading. But there is SOOOO much a writer can do before paying an editor for his or her expertise—and I’d like to show you three ways to not only save your money but get the most bang for your editorial buck.

1.    Don’t pay an editor to edit your first draft.

No matter how brilliant your ideas are, or how beautifully you phrase them, do some serious revising before you hire professional help. Learning to revise your work is an important part of becoming a professional writer. Get rid of those extraneous words, the fluff that doesn’t say anything, the character who doesn’t advance the story. Consider every word, every sentence, every paragraph. There is no point in hiring a copyeditor to clean up work you may later delete in a revision.

2.    Don’t expect an editor to provide a service other than the one you’ve contracted for.

Your manuscript may need different types of editing help at different stages of your writing process. When you hire a developmental editor, you hire someone to help you with the big picture, not small details like punctuation. When you hire a proofreader, don’t expect help with your story arc; a proofreader is looking at details (like that pesky punctuation the developmental editor didn’t care about). If you’re uncertain about the type of editing help you need, ask me—I’ll be happy to help you figure it out. I’m here to help you make that book, newspaper article, blog post, advertising flyer—or anything else that strings together those amazing, marvelous things called words—sound as perfect and professional as it can be.

3.    Don’t hire an editor to tell you what you want to hear.

You are the author, and you have the right to disagree with your editor. You always have the right to ignore his or her advice and reject suggested changes. But if you engage intellectually in the editing process, you’ll find your writing improves and your ideas crystallize as a result. Remember that your editor hasn’t lived with your ideas, plot, or character—and that’s one of the reasons why you hired him or her to work with you. It is difficult to be objective about your writing when you are so close to it, so really consider every suggestion—then discuss your ideas and concerns, and make your editor your partner in creating the very best work you are capable of writing.

My love affair with words is the best tool in your arsenal as a published author. You came up with fantastic ideas, and I’ll help you make sure they come across the way you want them to. I love words, and I’d love to play with yours. Email me at cyjohnson5580@gmail.com, and let’s discuss how I can help you.

Happy Writing!

—Candace

 

Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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