So maybe you’ve finished the NaNoWriMo or maybe you are slaving away at the final pages (and if you are, you need to stop reading this RIGHT NOW and get back to work), but I’m sure that as you peruse the text of your masterpiece you will find some scenes, character dialogue or something else that you cannot believe you wrote. It’s good stuff. It gives you chills it’s so good.
Of course, there will also be the inevitable passages that look like a monkey threw magnetic letters on a refrigerator before downing a fifth of Southern Comfort. Don’t worry.
How about this dialogue:
Aro started to laugh. “Ha, ha, ha,” he chuckled. (page 476 of New Moon)
…and then on page 479, she does it again…
“Ha, ha, ha,” he laughed, his head still bent forward.
I mean, do we really need to have the sound of laughter spelled out?
Beth Hill has written a great blog post about problematic dialogue and is well worth the time to read. She has hit the nail on the head of what makes dialogue sing out of tune.
Another area that is problematic might be the description which is the meat of any novel. Evan Marshall, a publisher and editor, has written some handy tips for polishing that mound of text into a workable novel which is worth a read.
Above all, realize that a novel’s first draft may be one of hundreds. I have literally spent days editing through a text only to discover a new angle or new direction that causes me to rework several chapters and in some cases whole characters. Some things to remember when you do this:
1. Take Careful Notes – Sometimes if you change up a character too much, the descriptions or personality of that character begins to look like three different actors played them (if, like me, your book plays in your head like a film). There will be continuity problems that will creep up on you that may not be noticeable to you but very obvious to a reader. For example, one of the rough drafts of Book 1 of This Broken Earth included a scene where a pistol miraculously went from the pavement thirty feet away to the waistband of one of my heroes.
2. Take Your Time – It usually takes a month or so to edit through a text. I am in the editing stages of my current book right now and it releases on December 21st. I’m taking my time. I have written a few posts about editing that could help you at this point, such as:
Peruse my archives for many more of these posts. As an English teacher who has 15 years experience who writes all the time, I’ve thought a great deal about the craft, and I want to pass my experiences right on to the general public.
In March, the NaNoEdit will happen, but why wait until then? If you wait too long after you write a novel, you will probably forget the reasons you wrote the novel in the first place. Get busy tearing it apart. If you wrote the NaNoWriMo you spent the month working to solve the immediate problem of creativity. Now that it is nearly over, you have plenty of time to rework that pile of words into something that is the best you can offer.
Why not do your best?