The Single Best Way to FINISH Your Novel
It’s my FAVORITE time of the year. I SO LOVE HALLOWEEN. It is the best of all the holidays because it is the only holiday where hanging out with family and cleaning my house are optional. There’s also candy and costumes.
This year I am going as Maleficent. Still working on my costume, and since I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to pull it off, I actually had a spare Alice in Wonderland costume.
So of course I had to put THAT to use. And, you are welcome!
Yes, I filmed myself as Alice in Wonderland in the only room in the house with lighting that didn’t make me look like Alice in Wonder-When-Botox-Will-Go-On-Sale Land. But, hey, we are all here to have FUN!
Anyway, whether we Nano or not, I want to offer you a lesson about writing a novel. Probably the BEST lesson. Editing is necessary and awesome. In fact, there are a lot of books published that could have used it…a LOT of it. But, like Botox, it can be overdone and ruin something that could have been beautiful.
Editing can and WILL kill your WIP. It WILL tank progress and, if you allow it, it WILL derail you and keep you from finishing Nano. In fact, I think perfecting and editing kill more novels than “writer’s block” ever did. We futz and fuss and fret the magic right out of the work until it dies a lonely death in a forgotten digital file on a forgotten laptop.
But how can we NOT edit? How can ignoring editing make our work better? Kristen, are you mad? What’s next? Cats and dogs living together?
It can. Trust me. Better yet. I’m an editor, so I will show and not tell.
I dig parables, so I have a good one for you.
I love to garden, but I am terrible at reading instructions, which means I am not going to read a How To book or gardening blogs, because I already have enough to read and this would steal time from my great joy…digging in the dirt. This means that, over the years, I’ve learned a lot through trial and error.
Code for : Killing Stuff
Almost seven years ago, we bought our first home. We got a sweet deal on it, but it needed work. The yard was little more than mowed field. I couldn’t wait to get in and pretty it up. I slaved for hours in triple-digit Texas heat digging holes and clearing land for gardens. I’d always loved oleander and when I found them on sale at the local nursery, I was ecstatic.
Normally, oleander this size were about $150 but I got each for less than $20. I planted one on each corner of the house and dreamed of how beautiful they’d be when they matured.
Then we had the most freakish, freezing winter in Texas history. I’d never even seen snow before and suddenly we were buried in eight inches of it.
The Canadians can all stop laughing now. You guys have things like PLOWS, SNOW SHOVELS, SNOW TIRES…and COATS.
Anyway, the oleanders that seemed to be doing okay during the mild fall were obliterated. When early spring came, I cleaned up all the dead stuff and dug out all the oleanders and threw them away. All except one because I ran out of energy.
Much to my horror, guess what sprouted once it got warmer?
My last remaining oleander. *sniffles*
To this day, I can’t look at that oleander without grieving the other four. I feel so foolish. What if I’d just been patient? What if I hadn’t been so quick to judge what was “dead”?
This is what premature editing can do to our story. When we start hacking away and digging stuff out too soon, we have no idea what treasures we might be tossing in the garbage.
Never underestimate what your subconscious is capable of doing. Our subconscious mind is planting seeds along the way that can eventually sprout into ideas better than we imagined. Editing too soon can ruin that magic and toss it in a Hefty bag, just like my poor oleanders.
Tips to Avoid Premature Editing
Fast Draft (Kinda Like Nano on Steroids)
Candace Havens teaches a method called Fast Draft and I use it to this day. You write the entire novel in a matter of two weeks. No stopping, no looking back. No editing. This is my preferred method, because I am notorious for editing stuff to death.
In the mystery I just sent off to an agent, I forbade content editing. There were times I thought what I was writing was ridiculous. SHEER MADNESS. But, as I got closer to the end, I realized my subconscious was far smarter than I was. I ended up with a richer, deeper story that I never would have been able to consciously plot. Because I didn’t uproot those seeds of inspiration, I was finally able to watch them bloom into something far more remarkable.
The killer I’d “plotted” was actually a red herring. My subconscious actually had come up with a twist even I didn’t consciously see. Had I gone back and “fixed” things? I would have edited out the best twist in my book.
Thus I challenge those of you who might have a tough time finishing. Give permission to simply WRITE. Your subconscious might have a miracle in store for you.
Allow yourself to correct typos, punctuation and grammar ONLY. Anything else that you believe needs to be changed, make a note of it in a different color. Then keep moving forward.
I know this isn’t for everyone. Every time I talk about this topic, I get a half a dozen comments from people who just can’t bear to not edit. Of course, many of them don’t have finished books, either.
In the end, these are tips. You have to find what works for you. But I would at least give these methods a try. You can always slay the superfluous adverbs later ;).
If you are tempted to edit, instead, just make a note of it in a different color and keep going. For instance, maybe your protagonist didn’t have a sister when you started the book, then suddenly she does. You are tempted to edit this new character out. Instead of doing that, just make a note of it and riff with it. Your muse could be doing you a solid.
Writers often whine that they wish the muse would visit, but then when she does, they undo all her magic with edits. Let her help!
Remember that Nanowrimo is NOT about 50,000 perfect words so it is okay if there is a false trail in there. But if there IS, then you at least have some breadcrumbs to get you back on track and you haven’t wasted precious time polishing something that didn’t work OR unraveling something seriously cool your muse was gifting to you when you were refilling your
vodka coffee ;).
Again, if you LOVE editing and you have finished 20 novels and bathe regularly in $50 bills, keep doing it. I am ALL about writers finding what works for them. There IS no One-Size-Fits-All.
But, if you’ve had a hard time finishing or you do get stuck, it doesn’t hurt to give this a try. I argued with pros who told me to stop editing my stuff for YEARS and I was stubborn as a goat (note the pic of me with the horns above—this is before I put ON my Maleficent costume 😉 ). In all honesty, I really wish I hadn’t been such a stubborn pain in the @$$.
What are your thoughts? Have you ever gotten overzealous and edited the heart out of a story and later regretted it? What tactics do you use to keep from editing too soon? Does editing early not bother you?
I LOVE hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of OCTOBER, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel.
For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook.