Every year, we’re lucky to have great sponsors for our nonprofit events. Fiverr, a NaNoWriMo 2020 sponsor, is here to help you with some editing tips to get your novel ready to publish:
You and your manuscript have spent a lot of time together over the past few months (or maybe even lifetime). Take a minute to marvel at your masterpiece. You started November a writer and ended a novelist. You did what most people only dream of—you sat down and wrote the darn thing. Bravo.
It’s totally normal to want to take a breather and step away from your first draft for a while. Once you’re ready to dive back in—because you wrote those 50,000 words, and they should be read!—reread it. See what’s working and what needs to be rewritten. When you’re finally happy with the revisions and ready to start thinking about publishing, it’s time to finally ask for some help. Call in editors, designers, marketers, etc. Editing, polishing, and designing your novel before you’re ready to publish is key, and you’re going to want to call on professionals to make sure the process is as smooth as possible.
The path to publishing is different for everyone. Some want to connect directly with publishers, while others are planning to self-publish. For both paths, there are websites like Fiverr. Fiverr—the freelancer marketplace—launched anew store that includes hundreds of digital services for taking your manuscript to the next level.
Check out our tips below for editing, designing, and promoting your novel:
Editing 101: Get a fresh pair of eyes on your manuscript to do deep developmental edits, catch mistakes, and utilize feedback to strengthen your manuscript. Find freelancers for everything from content editing to proofreading to beta reading.
Make a lasting impression, from cover to cover: All the effort you put into writing your novel will be for nothing if you don’t capture the attention of your readers immediately. Packaging your novel right is important to position it for the market. Hire an expert for freelance services like cover design, book interiors, illustration, book blurbs and more.
Ready, set, launch: You may be planning to pitch your novel to traditional publishers, or are looking to market on your own. Who is your target audience? What is your angle? Come prepared with a book proposal, professional book trailer, and a solid marketing plan in place.
The bad news: even really good manuscripts have weak spots that are enough to garner rejections from agents and publishers.
The good news: most of these problems are easy to fix—once the writer sees and understands them.
After several years of evaluating manuscripts, Elizabeth noticed that many submissions had similar problems, so she began to make a list of the pitfalls. The Author’s Checklist offers her short, easy-to-implement bites of advice, illustrated by inspiring—and cautionary—real-world examples.
Elizabeth K. Kracht is a literary agent with Kimberley Cameron & Associates, and a freelance editor. She often participates in writers’ conferences nationally and internationally and lives in Tiburon, California.
Brave the Page, our NaNoWriMo handbook for young writers, is available to order! Partly a how-to guide on the nitty-gritty of writing, partly a collection of inspiration to set (and meet) ambitious goals, this is our go-to resource for middle-grade writers. Check out this Brave the Page excerpt on revision from bestselling author Scott Westerfeld:
At the end of drafting a novel, I’m usually in need of a laugh, so I return to the very first pages I wrote. It’s like looking at photos of myself in middle school: How innocent I was back then! How badly dressed! But what I’ve gained since those early days isn’t so much wisdom (or a better haircut) but perspective. I can see now where things were headed.
Alas, when looking at old pictures, you can’t go back and give yourself advice. But with first drafts you can! In that moment before revising begins, you’re no longer stuck in the hurly-burly of “What happens next?” and “What’s this character’s motivation?” You have perspective.
So here’s a suggestion: the first day of a revision is the perfect time to outline your novel again. Perhaps we should call it re-outlining, or simply stepping back.
It’s tempting to start just rewriting Chapter One. But set that aside for a moment and make yourself a map, a big-picture view of how the pieces of your novel fit together.
You probably have your old outline. Put that aside, and look at what you wound up actually writing. A complete draft has its own logic. (If it doesn’t, maybe you’re still drafting.) Clear away those youthful hopes and dreams and look back at where you went wrong.
A lot of rewriting—like a lot of growing up—is simply admitting how clueless you were not so long ago. (Which is why some people never rewrite, and why some people never grow up.)
So start your revision by answering these questions: Which scenes work, and which are clunky? Which characters never took off, and which turned out to be unexpectedly compelling? Which goals that you started with aren’t worth pursuing anymore? And what startling new vistas opened up?
In other words, what do you know now that you didn’t know then?
Realize how little you knew when you started, appreciate how much smarter you’ve become, and accept what innocence you’ve lost. Then make decisions accordingly, even if that means throwing away the obsessions of your younger self.
To throw one more analogy at you, a novel is like a cloud. When you’re in the thick of it, its shape is unknowable. But once you’ve passed through and gained a little distance, it’s much easier to see.
Make sure you take a picture before you dive back in.
Scott Westerfeld is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Uglies series, which has been translated into 35 languages; the Leviathan series; Afterworlds; Horizon; and many other books for young readers. He was born in Texas and alternates summers between Sydney, Australia, and New York City.
As you begin revising your November novel, you’ll probably notice a lot more about your manuscript now that you’re looking at it with a critical eye—some good, some that needs reworking. Today, Municipal Liaison Rebekah Loper shares some good and bad writing instincts that may help you with your edits:
When you sit down with a blank page and a story idea, you’re bringing all the habits you’ve learned along the way, and those habits aren’t always good.
If you’re a new writer, you’re bringing along all that maybe-not-so-helpful advice everyone shared when you announced your book writing intentions. If those advice-givers haven’t actually written a book ever, ignore them.
Bad Instinct #1 – Explaining Too Much
Ah, the dreaded info dump. We’ve all read one, but it’s hard to catch ourselves while writing one. And for NaNoWriMo, we’ve told ourselves that any words are good words, so long as they get written, and this is true. You can’t fix an unwritten story.
Info dumps usually don’t become noticeable until we’re re-reading a draft, and they’re so challenging to get rid of because as the creator of our stories, we love what we write (mostly).
Good Instinct Alternative – Knowing Your Story & Its World
The knowledge contained in an info dump isn’t bad—it just doesn’t necessarily belong where it ended up. And yes, sometimes that information doesn’t belong in the story at all but it’s almost always something you, as the author, needed to know.
Learn how to tease your readers, only giving away information as necessary. For those info dumps you just can’t part with, pull them out of your story and put them in your story bible in case you need to reference it later.
Bad Instinct #2 – Mimicking Another Writer’s Voice
As you delve deeper into the world of writing and begin to study the processes of the craft, you’re going to stumble across advice telling you to find your own writing voice.
Finding the elusive, mythical creature known as ‘my writing voice’ was a daunting task when I first stumbled across this advice—especially since it was never well-defined. I remember being advised to read a lot, and learn to recognize other ‘writing voices’. While learning to recognize these can be a beneficial skill (especially if you ever want to be a ghostwriter), this never actually helped me write better stories.
It can also be tempting to try and sound like another author, particularly one you admire. But then, instead of telling your own unique stories, you start to tell someone else’s.
Good Instinct Alternative – Recognizing the Sound of Your Own Voice
“So how do I find my writing voice?” It’s actually simple—you write.
Your voice is already there. It’s not something you find, it’s a skill that you hone.
‘Writing voice’ is the way you phrase sentences, the cadence you naturally fall into. Often, you’ll find your writing voice is easy for you to read aloud, because it sounds like you.
Reading your own work aloud is a great way to refine your voice, especially in later drafts of a book. Take note of the places where you instinctively want to use a different turn of phrase, or a word just doesn’t quite mesh with what you were trying to convey. Then re-write it how you want to say it.
Bad Instinct #3 – Being Overly Protective of Your Story
No matter how experienced of a writer you are, the first time you send a new story out to critique partners, beta readers, or even an editor, you’ll be really nervous. For new writers especially, those nerves might start when you even think about sharing your work with someone else.
It can also happen when you find out someone else has written a story with a very similar premise to yours. Then you start wondering if, by the time your story is ready to be unleashed in the world, your words will even matter anymore. (They will. Even if premises are similar, no story told by two separate people could ever be the same.)
Those feelings might be so fierce you’re tempted to just shove your story in a drawer and forget it. But if you do that, you’ll never grow into your full potential.
Good Instinct Alternative – Recognizing the Value of Constructive Criticism
It’s okay to be selective about who sees your stories, especially in those very early drafts. Your critique partners (other writers, preferably) and beta readers should understand that the story is pretty raw at this point. No first draft (and rarely second or third drafts) is ever ready to be released wild into the world.
You will need to practice accepting feedback, especially from more experienced writers and readers who know your genre. You’ll need to learn how to recognize when a piece of feedback doesn’t actually apply to your story.
Trust your gut. Be selective in who you let read your work, and if a critique partner or beta reader just isn’t meshing well with your vision, don’t be afraid of ignoring their advice.
What bad instincts have you noticed in your own writing habits? Or, conversely, what good instincts came easily to you?
Rebekah lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma with her husband, a dog, two formerly feral cats, a flock of chickens, and an extensive tea collection. She is often found battling the elements in an effort to create a productive, permaculture urban homestead on a shoestring budget.
As you begin revising your November novel, you’ll probably notice a lot more about your manuscript now that you’re looking at it with a critical eye—some good, some that needs reworking. Today, writer Nathan Dhami is here to help you distinguish between tropes and clichés, and how they may help or hinder your novel:
Genre fiction, while being a very broad and catch-all term, is gaining mass appeal with contemporary audiences and writers alike. Newer writers may try writing their favorite genre, but might be lost as to where they should start. Maybe they are inspired by their favorite pieces in the genre they wish to emulate, but have no idea how to apply that inspiration. They may also be worried that their story is falling into trappings that leads to similar pieces being considered “boring” or “played out.” In other words, writers may have difficulty navigating and using the genre’s tropes in their own stories.
In order to make writing these stories easier, we must understand the differences between tropes and clichés. The dictionary definition of “trope” is “figure of speech,” but that could also refer to idioms and, well, clichés. I’ve come to understand tropes as plot beats or patterns that are inherently recognizable from work to work due to how often they appear. (While you shouldn’t spend too much time on TVTropes, the website is a good informal catalogue of tropes in media.)
In superhero fiction, one of the most recognizable tropes is “the Cape,” a superhero who is pure of heart and fights for justice, representing the ideal “good” hero. If the first example of the Cape that popped into your head was Superman, that’s because the DC Comics hero is the pinnacle of the trope- he even wears an iconic bright red cape!
“Tropes as plot beats or patterns that are inherently recognizable from work to work due to how often they appear.”
A cliché is a type of trope—one that has become common enough that its occurrence is expected in a work or set of works. Depending on the execution, a motif could be a well-used trope or a trite cliché. One such example that gets brought up a lot in writing workshops is the phrase “love is like a rose.” It’s easily recognizable, because we already associate roses as a gift or a symbol of love. However, this simile is played out and not very innovative. Your audience probably already expects roses to appear when you’re writing a romantic poem or story, and while I’m not saying that you can’t include roses at all, it is often best to explore the emotion of love with other images and phrases.
So why use tropes if they can be misused or if you’re worried about your audience recognizing them? The simple answer is tropes are tools that you employ in your writing to convey your plot beats in an efficient and compelling way. Tools are meant to be used. Just like I would have a difficult time constructing my work desk without the right hammer, drill, and screwdriver, you will have a difficult time constructing your story without using the right tropes.
Your audience should recognize the tropes that you use when telling your story, especially when it comes to writing genre fiction. Genre fiction relies heavily on tropes because it’s written to appeal to a specific audience. Because your reader should already be familiar with the genre you’re working in, this means you can invoke and play with particular tropes in order to satisfy or defy your audience’s expectations, without having to construct or define specific plot beats for the first time ever in your story. You can’t worry about cynical fans pointing out everything you write that reminds them of [thing] from [another story]. Just use the tools that other writers and stories have provided to your advantage and construct your world the way you want to.
Nathan Dhami is a UC Irvine graduate with a BA in English. His creative work, often related to superheroes and video games, has been featured in Orange County writing journals such as New Forum and The Ear. He has participated in NaNoWriMo every year since 2014. Samples of Nathan’s work can be found at https://www.clippings.me/litetheironman.
I Wrote a Novel… Now What? Your Revision and Editing Checklist
If you’ve completed a first draft of your novel, congratulations! However, after the hustle of getting that draft written, you may be wondering… what do you do with it now? This January and February,NaNoWriMo’s “Now What?” Monthsare here to help guide your novel through the revision, editing, and publishing process.
To start you off, we’ve taken some inspiration from previous blog posts to create this handy-dandy Revision and Editing Checklist. Don’t know where to start? Use this guide to help you navigate the tricky waters of novel revision!
Taking the leap from writer to published author is a huge accomplishment—and often the end goal for writers who complete NaNoWriMo. We all write for different reasons. We’re motivated by different life experiences, and we pursue a wide variety of genres and plot lines, but once the writing is finished, we generally all want the same thing: to share our work with others. So if you’re considering publication for your writing, here are a few things to keep in mind.
1. You have options.
Gone are the days when traditional publishing was the only way that “real” authors could publish their work. With advancements in technology, independent publishing has become an increasingly viable option. With the right printing and distribution, your book can look the same as any produced by traditional publishers—with the same availability. Not to mention, you can skip the gatekeepers, maintain creative control, and receive higher earnings per book sale.
Keep in mind that independent publishing will require you to seek help from a professional editor, book designer, and be willing to dive into your own book marketing, but all of these are easily accessible to indie authors and well worth the return on investment when you publish professionally.
2. Never limit your book’s potential reach.
If a reader wants to read your book, your book should be available to them—it’s as simple as that. You don’t know how readers will want to consume your content, so be sure it’s offered in print and ebook formats. Why exclude those who ONLY read print books or ONLY read ebooks?
Your reader may shop exclusively at their local independent bookstore, they may only shop for books online, or they might even leave their book discovery to libraries. Make sure your distribution doesn’t exclude any of these outlets. You never know who will want to buy your book; it may even end up being highly popular to those in a country other than your own. Make sure when you publish your book, your potential reach isn’t limited, globally or by distribution channel, so as not to exclude any potential readers from buying your book.
3. Being prepared is key.
The most successful authors and publishers are the ones who understand the publishing process, the publishing industry, and their audience. If any of these pieces are missing, your book can’t reach its full potential. If you’ve created a work that matters to you and you genuinely want to share it, you owe it to yourself and your book not to slack in these essential areas. Do your research to understand:
what kind of editing or design your book may need.
the appropriate timeline for production and promotion.
what booksellers and libraries need from you and your book in order to carry it.
what kind of media coverage you can get.
what month is best to publish a book like yours.
what books similar to yours look like.
how much they sell for.
what keywords you may want to sprinkle into your book description to attract your target readers.
All of these pieces are important to producing the best book you can, and all the information is available to you.
The only thing that stands between you and the publication of your book is a way to publish professionally, a way to ensure your book is shared widely, and the willingness to learn how to make your book a success (ideally, all within a reasonable price range to make sure your efforts pay off).
These things seem like a much lower barrier to entry than what is offered by the traditional publishing process, considering how much time and effort you dedicate to convincing others your book is worthy before ever seeing a dime. Independent publishing isn’t for everyone, but neither is traditional publishing, so it’s always good to be aware of your options and fully explore what’s right for you and your book.
IngramSpark® is an award-winning independent publishing platform, offering indie authors and publishers the ability to create professional print books and ebooks. Self-publish a book and make it available to 40,000+ retailers and libraries—in stores and online—through IngramSpark’s global distribution network. Share your story with the world at www.ingramspark.com.
If you’d like to learn more about how IngramSpark supports you produce quality publications, achieve global distribution, and access free resources to help you publish successfully, please visit our website.
All WriMos receive FREE title setup on print or ebooks (and free revisions) with IngramSpark until March 31, 2020, with promo code NANO2020. Write with NaNoWriMo, publish with IngramSpark.
Regardless of how you decide to pursue your publication goals, may your writing accomplishments be validated and your words well-read!
Every new year comes with new opportunities. Maybe you wrote a first draft of a novel last November… well, now it’s time to whip that draft into shape!
This January and February, during NaNoWriMo’s “I Wrote A Novel… Now What?” Months, we’re focusing on revision and publishing: providing tips from published authors, editors, and agents to help you reach even greater creative heights. Are you ready?
Sometimes, the editing process can be more intimidating than writing a novel! It’s hard to shoulder the pressure of making your writing better. Today, Young Writers Program participant Ashton Kay shares a few tips for making editing a little bit easier:
You’ve created some quirky characters to keep the story flowing, constructed a world that your characters dwell in, and you’re finally done with torturing the protagonists through a countless number of hardships and conflicts. Guess what? You’ve finished writing the rough draft!
If you’re internally (or perhaps, externally) screaming, ‘Aaah! Editing!’ it could mean two things; you’re either eager and excited to start editing, or you’re simply dreading to go back to your draft.
Good for you if you’re getting urges to make the rough draft better! But fear not if you’re the in the latter situation. Even if it seems like your first draft is already perfect and ready for publishing, that’s almost always never the case. There’s some room for improvement at all times. Now, stop procrastinating, and get your hands onto the keyboard. I’ve got some tricks up my sleeve that you might happen to find helpful.
1. Take a break.
I told you to ‘get your hands onto the keyboard’—I guess I lied. Sorry about that. Get your hands off the keyboard. Now’s the time to pat yourself on the back and take a break. Free yourself from the stress of writing, and feel proud that you’ve finished the first draft. The important fact, though, is that taking a break is essential for you to obtain an objective view of your writing. A week or two is a reasonable length of time, but it’s up to you to decide how long you want your break session to last.
2. Get a big picture of your story.
Once you’re ready to start typing again, read through your story and get a generic, big picture of it. Search for any plot holes that you might have missed, and review your story arc. Think about how the protagonist and antagonist’s motives clash, and make sure that their actions are led by the motives.
3. Add in some foreshadowing.
Foreshadowing’s actually pretty fun to add in, now that you have a detailed and certain idea of how your characters are going to end up. It’s important for you to have enough foreshadowing so that the ending doesn’t seem too sudden and abrupt. Glue your readers’ eyes on the pages with some hints of what’s going to happen later on in the story!
4. Adjust your story pacing.
It’s time for you to adjust the pace of the scenes and actions. Make the dramatic scenes slower-paced, and get rid of any events that contribute very little to the story, or that are unimportant. It can be painful to delete a large chunk of writing that you’ve written, but if that’s what makes your writing better as a whole, it’s probably something that’s worth gnashing your teeth through.
5. Get other people’s advice.
Ask your friends, teachers, relatives, or a friendly neighbor to read through your draft and give constructive criticism about it. They don’t necessarily have to be someone who enjoys writing, as long as they’re willing to give some advice to you. Readers are normal people, and it doesn’t take a writing expert to find out if a book’s compelling or not. Don’t get discouraged even if you get negative feedback. You still have a lot of time to go back and edit!
Editing is part of the writing journey that you’re on, and the journey cannot be complete without the process of editing. If you’ve enjoyed the thrill of writing the first draft, I’m sure you’ll find some fun in editing as well. Get a cup of hot chocolate with a marshmallow, and keep the writing vibes going!
Ashton Kay is an aspiring writer in her teens with a boundless passion for literature. She is usually buried under mountains of math worksheets, yet she magically manages to find some time to write. When she’s writing, she enjoys traveling through time and space, making risky deals with a villain, and fighting away mutant monsters with her characters. She is a possessor of a mind that buzzes with intriguing thoughts and ideas twenty-four-seven.
Sometimes, the editing process can be more difficult than writing! It’s hard to take the things that you wrote and change or get rid of significant chunks. Today, NaNoWriMo participant Rosario Martinez reminds us that it’s ok to break apart what you’ve written:
You’re finished with your first draft, and you have no idea what you wrote. You just spent a month (several actually, but who’s really counting) writing this story, and now you feel like you can’t articulate what it is that you wrote.
This happens, and it’s okay. Take a breath, take a few days to relax and not think about what you wrote. Detach, but keep in mind a date you’ll like to return. Always keep in mind a date you will return to your story. What I find helps the most is using the calendar feature on my cell phone because I have it with me most of the time. No excuses, right? (Sort of.)
Don’t worry, you can do this. You wrote a story, your story. It’s done. Now you have to read and fix that story. But how?
This is the part where I tell you how you can fix your story. But actually, each story is different and will require different approaches to edit, revise, and rewrite. There is so much information about techniques on how to approach your first draft that just looking at ideas on where to start can be overwhelming. Just remember you already have words on the page.Words you can read and make better because these words already exist. This is just my suggestion on how you can begin to approach your novel edits.
1. Break your novel into parts.
What I’ve found most helpful is breaking your long, messy draft down into parts. It’s easier to manage visually and in terms of workload. You can divide your manuscript into the typical beginning, middle and end sections. Or simply into sets of equal number chapters—whatever helps you.
2. Determine the state of your draft.
Basically, assess the damage. Were you able to finish the story? Or did you only complete the word count? These are two different things. Different genres have different word counts, so let this be your first guide.
3. Read your novel.
Now that you’ve divvied up your story into parts, here comes the fun part: actually sitting down and reading it. This can be a difficult exercise because while we’re writing we have this epic—I repeat—EPIC idea of what our story is, and we often genuinely believe that is the way we wrote it. So, reading it for the first time is a bit of a rude awakening because, well… it’s not epic. Reading your first draft is the hardest, because it makes you realize how much work is still ahead. It’s okay to feel down and cry. (I don’t think we talk about this enough as writers.)
4. Come up with a plan for your story.
All things take time. Breathe. And come up with a plan to make your story like you imagined it. Whether you dive straight into editing, or you choose a particular thing to focus on first, make those marks on the page with your favorite pen or use your favorite editing software to fix mistakes.
5. Don’t be afraid to make changes.
Did you read something that was already somewhere else in the draft? Are you repeating a word or a phrase too much? Cross it out. Is your main character meeting a lot of other characters? Make a list and (for the love of your future self rereading your draft a third or fourth time) make notes on where and when these characters first appear.
Write in the margins, circle, highlight, correct, revise words or sentences that don’t make sense. Write neatly so that it’s legible when you come back for another round. Be as specific as you can when you’re making these notes. Accept that it might take more read-throughs before you feel comfortable having someone else read it.
6. Find the best editing process for you.
Research your favorite authors that write the same genre as you, and find out how they approach their drafts. You might discover something that will work with your own approach. Your approach to editing is your own, just like your story is your own. Only you will know what it needs and what it will take to get to the end each time. But whatever it is, take it bit by bit and you’ll make progress.
Rosario Martinez is a science fiction and fantasy writer. She lives in Dallas, Texas with her husband and their four sweet but demanding cats. She’s currently working on her debut YA fantasy novel. She has too many flannel things and believes a good bowl of nachos is life. To follow her journey to publication, visit her literary lifestyle blog or find her on Twitter @rosariomwrites and Instagram @rosariomwrites.