We’ve featured several articles about preparing for National Novel Writing Month (see here, here, and here) and one about editing your novel (see here). This year, we want to check in with two of our team members who recently won NaNoWriMo to get their thoughts on how they will approach editing their novels this March. Responding to these interview questions are four-time NaNo winner Hannah Comerford and first-time winner Emily Fahey.
Give us a brief synopsis of your novels.
Hannah Comerford: My novel is speculative fiction (or sci-fi) set in Seattle. Earth has made a treaty with a superior alien race and is cut off from their space settlements. The protagonist is exploring whether someone could sabotage the communications system and thereby break the treaty. And if they can, would she want to stop them?
Emily Fahey: Coincidentally, I also wrote a sci-fi novel, but with a YA/dystopian twist! Mankind is separated between people who live on the starships and people who live within a protective barrier on a planet surrounded by a toxic atmosphere. The starship fleet can no longer sustain the amount of life on the starships, and contact with the settlements is limited to an exchange of people once every few years due to the difficulty of navigating the atmosphere. A teenager is selected for the exchange and goes to the starships desperate to find her brother, who was exchanged years earlier. She discovers that the fleet is on the brink of starting a war for resources, and her brother may be on the wrong side of the war.
Give us the step-by-step process you intend to follow during NaNoEdMo in March.
HC: While I was approaching 50,000 words, I realized that my story would need more content to arrive at a satisfactory ending. I’m working on it slowly but surely—certainly not at a NaNoWriMo pace. For now, my goal is to use my planner to schedule writing time consistently until I finish.
Once I’ve finished my first draft completely, I’ll set it aside for a week. Then I will save the content as a new file and start reading it through, making small changes as I go along. If I see anything major that needs to be fixed—plot holes, name changes, etc.—I’ll highlight and go back to it later. Once I’m finished, I’ll compile a list of issues I want to address in the editing stage.
During NaNoEdMo, I’ll go through my list, picking which issue I want to tackle based on the time I have. My goal would be to have a new draft by the last week when I’ll read once more and make any extra edits as I go. This way, I’ll end the month with a third draft, which I’ll then be able to send out to beta readers with confidence.
EF: While I “won” NaNoWriMo by writing 50,000 words in November, I still have about three chapters to write to get my main character from the predicament I left her in to the final chapter that I wrote in the middle of the month. So, for me, NaNoEdMo is going to be a combination of completing those chapters while refining and reworking some of the plot holes I discovered when I reread the book in January.
My plan is to take the first week to address some of the bigger plot issues in large chunks while drafting those missing three chapters. Week two will focus on making sure the changes I made get corrected throughout the book (addressing continuity issues, eliminating or reworking sections that no longer fit with the larger changes, etc.). In week three, I want to focus on character description and dialogue. Something that got me through NaNoWriMo was remembering that the first draft was just me telling myself the story, so there is a lot of, “He had long dark hair,” and, “She felt nervous,” which needs to be reworked with an eye for showing, not telling. Week four will probably involve another full reread and minor edits.
But at that point, my book is by no means done! I anticipate another two full rounds of editing at least, mostly because I need to take some more time to free-write around world-building to ensure that the setting amplifies the story and makes sense without being distracting. I also had one of those middle-of-the-night light bulb moments in which I figured out how to raise the stakes for my main character earlier on in the novel, and I need to weave that in as well.What do you anticipate being the biggest editing challenge of NaNoEdMo? #nanoedmo #editorinterview Click To Tweet
What do you anticipate being the biggest editing challenge of NaNoEdMo?
HC: Finding time to write is always going to be my challenge. I find I’m most creative at night, but that’s also when I’m often most tired. Pushing myself to keep going, perhaps with some virtual write-ins with friends, as well as some incentives (ice cream), will be key.
EF: My biggest challenge will be forcing myself to get up at 6 a.m. again to write. I did that most mornings in November, and I truly believe that creating that habit was key to reaching 50,000 words. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating; when you make a dedicated and consistent time to write, your muse starts showing up consistently, too.
Do you consider editing to be its own process or just another extension of your writing?
HC: Until you’re ready for a proofread, you’re still writing. Editing requires rewriting trouble areas, crafting answers to problems, and sometimes even throwing out the entire thing and starting fresh. (Fun fact: My 2020 NaNoWriMo project was a reboot of a failed NaNoWriMo from a previous year.) It’s part of the process of refining your work, and it’s best to embrace it if you want to be a writer.
EF: It is definitely part of the writing process for me, at least for the big initial edits. Once a project is down to line editing or copyediting, then that feels more like the work of an editor than the work of a writer.Do you consider editing to be its own process or just another extension of your writing? #nanoedmo #editorinterview Click To Tweet
Do you anticipate additional editing/writing after this round in March, and if so, what do you think that will look like?
HC: Definitely. I won’t send my draft to beta readers until after March, and when I receive feedback, I’ll need to return to the project to work on issues that arose. Really, I won’t know how many drafts I’ll have before I’m done. That’s just how writing works for me: I rarely know I’m finished until I’m finished.
EF: Yep, at least two more edits. I know I have the bones of the story in place, but I think it will take a lot more refining before I’m ready to share it with beta readers. It’s a double-edged sword, writing a YA sci-fi novel when that is my favorite genre to read. I’ve got high standards, and this book is going to take a lot of work to meet those standards.
What is your best editing advice for fellow writers from your perspectives as a seasoned NaNo winner and a first-time winner, respectively?
HC: Don’t wait too long to edit. You’ll put your draft away for the month of December, and then you’ll be tempted to put it away for January, and before you know it, you’re getting ready for the next NaNoWriMo. So, push through your insecurities and fatigue, edit that novel, and share it with trusted friends for feedback. Your work is worth it.
EF: If you do the prep work to get a rough outline in place before November, I think you are much more likely to have a complete (or mostly complete) novel to edit in March. That in itself can be very motivating, knowing that your work in March is to flesh out the bones of your story. Commit to a consistent hour or two of writing/editing at the same time every day and give yourself treats and rewards along the way.
Are you ready for a developmental editor or copyeditor to take a look at your NaNoWriMo novel? Many of our editors are also published writers and can provide you with thoughtful editing combined with the knowledge of someone who has also been in the trenches as a writer. We can’t wait to work with you and cheer you on as you develop your novel!