Many of you will know that there is an event, every year, called NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month. The idea is to write a novel of 50000 words or more during the month of November. I did this several years ago and, while the ‘novel’ I wrote will never be shown to anybody but me – and I’m not going to be reading it – it did serve as a useful ‘throat clearing’ exercise for my writing exploits.
One of the stages that sits between writing the first draft of a novel – which is the aim of NaNoWriMo – and getting it to a form that might just be marketable, is rewriting, taking what you first wrote and filling in the gaps, tightening the screws, making it work. My current ‘work in progress’ novelwise was written over a period of about 6 months to first draft, but I’ve been dithering over the rewriting for rather too many years than I care to admit. I’ve been writing, and selling, short stories over that time, but novels are where things get interesting.
But rewriting a novel requires a lot of focussed effort.
For that reason I’ve declared January to be January Novel Rewriting Month – JaNoReWriMo – and I think several others in my writing group are doing the same.
My first step in doing this is to read the book as if it were a novel, from front to back, pausing only to make notes for things to change. Previously I’ve done line edits on the way through, rather than focusing on how things hang together, on building the tension, and making the story work.
I’m currently nearly 1/4 of the way through the reading, and one thing that has surprised me is the number of typos and miswordings that have surprised previous edits. I guess the thing I tell students, to leave a lab report for a day and then read what you wrote rather than what you thought you wrote, works for everyone, including me.