After the thrill and huge effort of NaNoWriMo, December can feel a little … confusing. With the busyness of the holidays and finishing up end-of-the-year tasks, your manuscript can easily fall to the end of your to-do list. But whether you want to stay focused on your book, or you decided to let it rest for a little while, don’t let your rough draft hibernate for too long. Here’s how to edit your NaNoWriMo novel:
Read Through & Revise
Whether you’re a bold, big picture thinker or a stickler for the tedious details, the revision process can suck you in like quicksand. That’s why I recommend reading through and revising your book three times. (The big-picture people are like, ‘Sigh, seriously?’ and the sticklers are like, ‘Only three?!’)
Three times will allow the agonizing perfectionists to do a line-by-line revision but keep them from the kind of analysis paralysis that can last for a year or more.
Three read-throughs will also let the big picture, all-action types have a doable, manageable task, and will let them “see” their book from the reader’s perspective. Any big plot problems will show up.
Did I mention you should read your book aloud? Nothing brings typos to the surface like three out-loud readings. It’s how I find things like ‘calvary’ instead of ‘cavalry’. Spell check wouldn’t catch those mix-ups.
First Tier Beta Readers
When you’ve done your three, out-loud revisions, it’s time to send your book to a handful of high-quality beta readers. These are people who devour books on a regular basis. Don’t send your novel to Aunt Sheila who loves you more than life itself but who will hem-and-haw and never actually get around to anything more than flipping through and skimming the first and last chapters.
You want someone who reads your genre, who know what a novel should “feel” like, and who can pinpoint problem areas like a laser. This feedback might hurt:
“It’s got too much going on; I found the subplots distracting.”
“I was confused by the characters in chapter three–where did those guys come from? Jarring!”
“The description on pages ___ and ___ was distracting and totally unnecessary. Cut it, please.”
As painful as this type of critique can be, LISTEN. Remember, you’ve read your book three times, out loud. You are blind to any problems at this point. You NEED beta readers to make your book better–they’re worth any pain.
And speaking of their worth, make sure you offer them something valuable in exchange for this help. Give them a shout out on the acknowledgements page, free copies of the book after it’s published, gift cards, etc. These beta readers are some of the most important members of your book team.
Set Your Budget
Whether you decide to self-publish or sell your book to a traditional publisher, it will need to be professionally edited. I know this might be unwelcome news. But if you have an image in your mind of a hard-boiled editing team at a publishing house who will take your book lovingly into their care and polish it ’til it shines … send that image to the recycle bin right now. Traditional publishers have had to tighten their budgets, too, and they’re looking for writers who can submit a pre-polished book.
But don’t despair if you’re trying to edit your book on a shoestring. You have several low- or no-budget options.
Paying for professional editing was one of the best gifts I gave myself when I published my first book. I sat down with my super spouse, we decided on a budget that we both felt comfortable about spending, and we called it my birthday gift. That way, it took any and all pressure off of me to sell a certain amount of books to recoup my cost. (But when you earn back your cost, anyway, it’s all joy–no strings attached!) I found an editor with tons of great references and I listened to every suggestion she made. (Plus, her punctuation game was so solid, ya’ll. My commas are a mess.)
You’re creative–you can find ways to hire an editor! Here’s how to edit your NaNoWriMo novel on a tight budget:
If you don’t have any wiggle room in your budget, consider bartering. Offer your skills at graphic design, website or social media management, copywriting, etc. Editors are busy, and if you have experience in any of these areas, you can help them stand out online.
You could start a fundraising page like GoFundMe and offer rewards and bonuses like homemade fudge, yardwork, custom poetry, whatever fun thing that you can provide to your donors.
And don’t forget about that one English teacher. You know the one. The one who encouraged you and praised your writing, who was an early supporter of your work and helped you have the confidence to write a book in the first place. Contact this teacher and tell them about your editing needs. If you can, buy them a gift card, take them out to dinner, show them everything their consistent support has meant to you.
Find an Editor
If you’re paying for an editor online, make sure you check their references and ensure that there are safety measures in place to protect you from scammers and predatory “editors”. I like Upwork, because it allows me to release the payments only after I inspect the work and when certain requirements are met. They also have strict guidelines that filter out the shady scammers.
Also, check with your regional writing organization and get recommendations from authors there.
This may go without saying, but when you have a high-quality editor–do what they say!
If they tell you that a part of your book isn’t working, listen. That’s why it’s important to hire an editor you trust. If you’re working with a great editor, let them work their magic on your book. It will only make your work better!
Once you have your edited manuscript in hand, you’re ready to move on to the next exciting step. But take a moment to celebrate–you’ve already accomplished so much at this stage. Savor the journey, writer 🙂
NOW YOU: Have you already published a NaNo novel? In the comments, share more tips on how to edit your NaNoWriMo novel!
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