Sunday, December 12, 2010


So I wrote my 50,000+ words for NaNoWriMo. Some of you did, too. Or maybe you already had your first draft of your manuscript done.

Which leaves you with one question.

Now what?

Because NaNoWriMo is just about getting words out, and I have found, upon re-reading, some, um, problems with my story.

I have characters who completely change personality. I have a main character who becomes an alcoholic - even though I didn't plan that in the beginning, so it comes out of the blue, like she just decided one day to toss back a glass or 12 of wine.

I have timelines that don't work. I have characters who play an interesting role and then disappear. I have two main characters who need to intersect, to teach each other something, and yet...they don't.

In other words, I have a hot sloppy mess.

So the other day I actually had a couple hours of quiet alone time. Shocking, I know! And I totally kicked it old school: I got a notebook and a pen and I started trying to figure stuff out.

I did character sketches. Time lines. Notes about relationships. And even a "to do" list.

This is the beginning of the real work.

I don't like it as much as the writing part Writing is work's very sexy cousin.

Also, I am not an organized person. So the task of putting all these words in some semblance of order that actually makes sense is daunting.

Here are a few things that can help, whether you're digging out from under the NaNoWriMo mess or if you're looking to edit your rough draft manuscript.

1. Write a sentence about what your story is about. Then make it into a paragraph or two, like a cover blurb. If you can't do this, than you don't have a clear idea and your writing will probably be a bit muddled.

2. Make an outline. Some people like to make this formal, with topics and subheads. Others make it more organic. But it can give you an idea of where your story is going and help you stay on course.

3. Character sketches. The better you know your characters, the better you can use them for your purposes. What are their motivations? What are their goals? Their conflicts? Their epiphany? Also, I find it's helpful if their eyes don't change colors in the middle of the book, or if they actually age rather than get younger.

4. Create a storyboard. Use index cards or post-it notes and write key points on each. Then you can lay it out in order and see your story - literally - in front of you. This can help you see where it's going and what parts seem slim or too much.

5. Let someone else read it. I know, you probably don't want anyone gazing at your imperfections, but it's helpful to get opinions on what works and what doesn't. Also, we tend to fall in love with certain things and will try our best to make them work. When the reality is they just don't. Your reader(s) can help you flesh this out.

I found this excellent post by Tamera Lynn Kraft which has great links with tons of information on the topic.

We'd also love to hear any tips you might have. Just leave 'em in the comments section.

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