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So You Have 50,000 Words, Now What?

So you did it. You buckled down and made it through Nano and now you have a sparkly, if somewhat rough, finished manuscript in front of you. What do you do now? First, DON’T turn around and send it to an agent yet. Just please, don’t.

You may have words, you may have 50,000 or more of those beautiful little things, but you are far from being done. Having a finished draft is like sitting at base camp 1. You have everything you need for a successful climb in front of you and there is nothing stopping you from getting to the top. It will take patience and diligence and a little luck, but you can get there.

You wouldn’t just head right for the top without planning right? You’re not going to climb Everest in your underwear with no supplies to speak of, so why would you send out a jumble of words to an agent or an editor without making sure they are the best they can be? You never get a second chance to make a first impression. (Cliché I know, but it’s true.)

This week at YA Highway, we’re going to come at you with some ideas for revising your Nano Novel. Read each day’s post, ignore your manuscript, and let your mind come down from a super intense month. Let the story percolate, give your brain a chance to think about what you wrote, and then, when you are recharged and ready, sit down with your darling again and get to work.

The easy part is done, so now it’s time for the hard stuff.

No the word search is not part of the draft! I recycle whenever possible. 

For me, what works the best after I have a draft done is to print it out. I know a lot of people balk at the idea of wasting so much paper, but its part of the process I can’t get away from. I need to have the entire thing in front of me. When I work on my laptop, I work in chapters, and I focus on what’s going on in that moment. It’s not until I have the whole thing in front of me (in a pretty three ring binder) that I can sit back and read it all from start to finish.

At that point, I am not nitpicking. I am reading for content, as if I were actually the reader, not the writer. I make notes on a separate piece of paper, but I don’t stop to fix anything. Not yet. I make broad notes; plot holes that make no sense, things a character should have done, places that are totally unnecessary to the story. When I get done, I ask myself what questions are left unanswered. What do I, as a reader, want to know happened.

Then I let it sink in for a few days. Mull it over, run different scenarios through my mind and make lots of notes. Only then, do I go back to the printed out draft and start at page one, marking spots in red ink that need to be changed. (Using a binder is also helpful if you need to move chapters around. Just pull them out and put them in where they need to be.)

Once this long process is complete, I go back to my laptop and start making actual changes to my document. Usually, by the time I work through all the things that need to be fixed, I have a decent draft that I can send to my betas without fear of voodoo dolls or dead flowers in return.

I hope that this at least shed some light on what to do next, and if this revision method did not resonate with you, maybe one of the other Highwayers will have just the thing you’ve been looking for that clicks this week. There is no right way to do this crazy thing we call writing, and you just have to keep looking to find what works best for you.

Good luck!
Lee Bross

Lee lives her happily ever after on the coast of Maine where she has written Tangled Webs, her historical YA debut, and fantasy YA books Fates and Chaos under pen name Lanie Bross. She also writes contemporary books for New Adult under the name L.E. Bross, debuting with Right Where You Are.

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  1. That's what I like to do, too! Although I haven't actually printed anything out yet, but that sounds like a good way to see the words with fresh eyes. Also red ink is fun.

    I'm refining a novel that has pacing issues right now. Basically it's all action and no slow parts--my scenes are bigger than my sequels. So I went through and highlighted all the scenes in one color and the sequels in another. Then I zoomed out Office as far as it'd go, so I could see all the pages side by side. And I can see which sequels are in dire need of beefing up, and which ones are in proportion to their scenes. It's given me a much better handle on editing.

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  3. That's how I do all my revisions -- go through the whole thing, make notes, then go back and actually revise. Repeat a few times until I have a more polished manuscript. I don't usually print out the whole document until a much later draft, though. This process has worked really well for me so far. It makes the whole thing a bit less daunting than it would be if I were to try to make changes as I went along the first time.

  4. It's ironic that you chose a Mount Everest analogy today... my students and I just read a short story about a climb gone wrong because the climbers didn't have the right equipment when they came to a horrible storm!

    I have to have a printed manuscript as well. If I don't, I find that I forget things... Sometimes I have to print the thing out half way just so I can remember what happened in the beginning of the story. >>


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Item Reviewed: So You Have 50,000 Words, Now What? Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Lee Bross