Life After NaNoWriMo: The Book Revision Process

book revision process

NaNoWriMo’s Executive Director, Grant Faulkner, joined our December #BBchat Twitter Chat to discuss the book revision process and what next steps writers should take with their novel in order to be successful.

NaNoWriMo’s Executive Director, Grant Faulkner, joined our December #BBchat Twitter Chat to discuss the book revision process and what next steps writers should take with their novel in order to be successful.

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If you’d like to be notified about future BookBaby Twitter chats, please subscribe to our Facebook events. To view the entire chat transcript, visit this link. Below is a reformatted version of our discussion.

Why is it important to let your novel rest after NaNoWriMo?

One’s mind needs to rest, catch its breath after an intense creative marathon like NaNoWriMo. And… a little distance and time helps build up the “editorial side of one’s brain” that is necessary for revision. It’s always amazing to me how much creativity percolates in one’s subconscious. If you take a rest from your NaNoWriMo novel, you’re still writing it in a sense. You’ll bring new ideas to your revision. I like to take December off, and then plan my revision in January. But it’s different for everyone.

Should writers set a revision deadline for themselves? Or is it best to take one’s time?

Both! I believe in a deadline for all projects–otherwise you’re likely to fritter away time and find ways to procrastinate. That said, revising a novel requires more time because you’re stitching so many pieces together and weaving in more layers. Every novel is different. Some novels take a month. Some novels take 10 years. Without a deadline, you might spend an entire year on a chapter or two. Apply NaNoWriMo-style deadlines! If you’re sick of your story, then definitely take a break. Revision requires replenishment.

How does a writer know when to stop revising their manuscript?

Oh, that’s such a challenging question! So many people revise too lightly and don’t go deep. And some can’t stop revising–me! I think you should stop revising when you’ve stopped making significant changes, when you’re just tweaking a word here and there. It’s a judgment call. You have to ask yourself, “Have I done everything I can for this story? Am I fulfilled by it?”

What tools or resources do recommend to writers after the completion of their manuscript?

Every year, NaNoWriMo puts on “I wrote a novel, now what?,” which is a series of helpful webcasts with authors, editors, and agents. And we provide a wealth of resources. Here are some of the NaNoWriMo resources we’ve developed.  Many writers look to writers’ groups or online communities for feedback. Or, there are a number of wonderful conferences. The main resource is yourself. You learn to write a novel by doing it. You learn to revise a novel by doing it.

Why do some writers get stuck in their comfort zone, and how can they get out of it?

The best writing occurs when an author becomes vulnerable and takes risks. That’s easy to say, but hard to do. You have to constantly question yourself–ask yourself if you’re playing it safe or holding something back. Also, trust that your readers will applaud you for taking risks and opening your heart. The word “courage” comes from the Latin word for heart, “cor.” So, write with your whole heart to get out of comfort zone.

Should writers create multiple drafts of their manuscript or stick to just one?

Yes, revision usually takes a few drafts. Multiple approaches are great, especially in the first revision stages. You often need to experiment more to find the story. Part of my revision process is reading novels similar to mine. That’s my favorite part of revision!

At what point do you recommend seeking advice from beta readers?

Every writer is different. I don’t want anyone to read my stuff until I feel like it’s one step away from being finished. I know of writers who like to get feedback right away. If I get feedback too early, I’ll write with others’ voices in my head. So, you have to know yourself. You have to ask yourself when feedback will help you–and then what kind of feedback do you want?

What are some ways to hone your self-editing skills?

By editing your work–a lot! Also, editing others’ work and giving feedback helps train your eye for your own work. Most authors can’t stop self-editing, so go back and look at works you thought were finished. I guarantee you’ll make changes.

Is it helpful to share your writing with friends and family or should you seek out critique groups?

It depends what you want. Do you want to share your story for another’s pleasure, or do you want feedback to improve it? If the latter, then a critique group tends to work better than friends and family. Asking friends and family for a critique can harm your relationship with them. Feedback is a delicate and challenging thing.

What advice might you give to those who need motivation to take the next step with their novels?

You wrote your rough draft because you felt a story calling you. Keep focusing on the powerful call of your passions. Revising your novel is wonderful because seeing it to the end is a special gift. You’ll learn more about your story and yourself if you keep going. I think it was Philip Roth who said the road to hell is paved with unfinished manuscripts.

Questions from the audience:

Is there a genre you prefer above all others?

I’m not a fan of writing in just one genre. I write 100-word stories, essays, short stories, novels. I generally write “literary fiction,” for lack of a better word. But I’m embarking on a YA fantasy novel now. In the end, I just like a good story. And there are so many ways to explore the world, so I’m not too genre-specific.

In revision-the dilemma is this: Do you restructure just to get the strongest writing at the beginning of the book?

Not necessarily. Do whatever serves the story best. The book needs strong writing throughout. I think an author feels the contours of a story. So think about what scenes will spawn the larger story.

Do you ever stop working on a book because a very different idea has captured all your thinking and so you start on the new one?

A new novel idea always seems more promising than the one you’re working on. Generally, I think it’s worth finishing what you started–unless you truly decide it’s not worth pursuing. I juggle multiple writing projects. You just want to make sure you don’t end up with a lot of half-finished stories.

Has the feedback ever discouraged you so much you gave up on that one story and just started something new?

Yes, when I was a younger writer. Now, my skin is pretty thick. If I believe in a story, I’m all in.

Do you think once you’re published in a genre your stuck there if you really want to be published again fairly soon?

Not necessarily, but some authors stick to one genre to build their brand.


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