NaNoWriMo is almost over, which means many of you will now 50,000+ words on a new draft.
Of course, you realize it’s a rough draft. So, what’s next?
Since 1999, I’ve taught Novel Revision Retreats that answer this very question. How do you take the rough draft to a finished draft?
Step 1. Look at what you’ve written. At this point, there are really two versions of your novel. There’s the novel in your head and the novel on the page. And they aren’t the same. Your intentions were only partly realized in this version. That means its time to actually look at what you wrote, and not what you think you wrote.
I ask writers to go through the mss chapter by chapter (or scene by scene, if they’d rather) and write one sentence to summarize the actions (plot) and another sentence to summarize the emotional content of the scene/chapter. Also, note whether the scene contains conflict.
If you read through these summaries, it should be a fairly smooth synopsis of the entire story. And you’ll see the holes in the story much easier.
Step 2. Re-Envision. Once you SEE the story you’ve written, it’s time to re-envision that story. This is the death of one story–the one in your head–and the birth of a better story–the one on the page. How can you tell the story in a stronger, more emotional way? The function of the first draft is to tell you the story you have to tell; the function of the next draft(s) is to find the best way to tell that story. In other words, you’re focusing on the reader now.
You experience this all the time. For example, when you tell people later about getting Christmas presents, you’ll likely order the telling in a way that emphasizes emotion. Let’s say, you wanted to get a new cocker spaniel. You tell about opening sweatshirts, tickets to see the latest movie, and then–that small package that held little hope of being what you really wanted until you opened it and it said to go look in the laundry room. And there, in a carrying case, was–yes! the sweetest puppy ever.
You don’t tell about the puppy first. You hold back and build up the tension; your listeners are wondering what you really got for Christmas and if you were happy with it. Were you angry at your family or delirious with joy? Emotions. You withhold certain information until it makes the most emotional impact.
That’s what you need to do with your story now: pay attention to your audience and build the story so that it’ll give the most emotional impact.
Step 3. Rewrite. Then Repeat Steps 1 and 2 until you’re happy with the story.
The workbook for my Novel Revision Retreat goes into the process in far more detail!
For more detail on taking your story from rough to finished, Work through the simple exercises in the book. Order the paperback now.