Tomorrow is the start of November. Do you know what that means?
It means it has been one year since NaNoWriMo 2019!
… Or what I like to call — one of my biggest personal victories.
Because I completed the challenge and earned myself a certificate marking me as a winner!
I wrote 50,000 words in a single month.
So where am I now?
I’m a best-selling author, I’m world-famous, and everyone recognizes my book from a mile away…
Ha, well, that’s not entirely true.
In fact, my book is very much still in the production line, and I want to talk more about it today.
Settle in readers. Without further ado:
Where is my NaNoWriMo novel— one year later?
November 2019. The Immediate Aftermath
Cast your minds back.
We’ve reached the end of November and before me is my novel: the toils of writing over 1000 words a day.
Like anyone, I found myself filled with much eagerness to get into the editing process, to go back over my novel and make it perfect.
I took most of December off. I finished my novel, and forgot about it — celebrated Christmas — and the New Year.
Related: The Editing Process
I took time off during Christmas and the New Year, because one of the key skills you can bring to the table when editing is an unbiased opinion.
You know that feeling you get?
When you start reading a book and get distracted for a week — you come back, and you can’t quite remember what was happening?
It’s the same with novel writing, yet you use that to your advantage!
You come back a couple of weeks, or a month later, and you can’t quite remember what you put on paper.
It helps so much with being unbiased and killing your darlings.
I came back to my novel in January. Eager and with a mind that wasn’t fresh. I sat down, and I begun the culling progress.
The first draft was terrible.
I mean it! There were plot holes, the writing was bad, and every chapter, I didn’t finish with a smile, but with a cringe.
Believe it or not, that’s pretty standard for a first draft.
See, writers go through a phase of writing that many call the word vomit stage.
This is the stage where — you guessed it — you’re throwing up your words onto paper and getting the story down. You’re telling the story to yourself, rather than others, and making sure it has a beginning, middle, and end. No matter how good it is.
That’s why you have multiple drafts of a novel. You’re not writing your masterpiece in one attempt; no matter how nice doing so sounds (believe me, I wish I could write it in one attempt).
You finish the first draft, have a break, and move onto draft 2.
The Second Draft
I took the second draft one chapter at a time, going through my novel in chronological order. I reread each chapter, cleaned up the wording, removed the ideas that didn’t work (I mean it, I removed an entire major character), added plot to flesh the book out and I made the book shine.
This is the part where I could come at my novel with a critical eye!
I scrutinized every chapter, rewriting the same paragraph again, and again, and again, and again until it really popped off the page.
The best part: I didn’t really get writer’s block! My ideas were already down from draft 1.
Instead, I filled in the gaps, cleaned up the word vomit, and laid down a lovely foundation which read well beginning to end, that one could enjoy.
This process took me until August 2020.
I mean it.
I wrote my novel in one month.
To clean it up, took 8 months (I’m not bad at maths, I skipped December remember!)
By the end of the process — In August 2020 — I had before me what I believed to be a masterpiece.
Publishers would love it, agents would eat it up, and it’ll be on shelves by Christmas!
Of course, before I started pitching, I wanted a second opinion.
Here Come the Beta Readers
I paid my beta readers.
I did so because I picked strangers I found on the internet.
Family and friends had the risk of being biased and not wanting to hurt my feelings, but strangers — ho boy they could be brutal.
I remember sending my novel to them on August 30th 2020, and biting my lip with fear, as this was the first time someone else would really read my work.
The rest of August went quietly.
While they had my NaNoWriMo novel, I couldn’t do much work on it. I twiddled my thumbs and waited.
I didn’t hear a peep from them until about halfway through the month when they reached out to say they were enjoying the novel.
Great! They loved it! This is going to be great! I can write! They won’t have a bad thing to say!
They got back in touch with me, all within a week of one another, with a line edits and a reader’s report.
They all said the same thing.
They didn’t like my main character. In fact, they liked the character I didn’t want them to like.
All of my beta readers did!
At first, I was in shock. I adored my main character! There wasn’t a fault in her! How could nobody like her?
However, the significant thing about beta readers is they didn’t just say to me:
“Your main character sucks,”
They told me EXACTLY why and what I needed to do to course correct.
They also told me areas of my novel they wanted to see expanded on, and areas they didn’t understand.
They did this by covering my novel with in-line comments.
In-line comments that bought me into draft 3!
Draft 3 – A.K.A Present Day.
With the time off for the beta readers to work, I started draft 3 of my novel in September 2020.
(Two months before I started writing this blog post)
When I started on draft 3, I didn’t think my novel needed that much improving — but it was actually really interesting.
Remember when I said I took time off in December to make draft 1 feel fresher?
I felt the same with draft 2! The second draft of my novel wasn’t the masterpiece I thought it was.
As I go along (switching to present tense!) I am finding SO many areas to improve and expand upon, and having my beta readers in-line comments is really guiding me.
Especially when their comments match up to one another (like with my main character!)
I’ve written extra chapters — which I will have them scrutinize again — and I have worked on chapters I had already rewritten time and time again, which I thought I had perfected in draft 2.
…And my novel is coming on really well for it. Getting a second opinion is great!
Sure, I was shocked at first, and it upset me, but who better to upset you?
The beta readers before publishing, or the general public when your books is out there?
I am sure we’ll both agree on the same answer.
… And that brings us to today! One year later!
My NaNoWriMo novel is very much still building, but it’s come so far. It’s a different novel to that in which I finished last November, but it’s changed in ways which make it shine.
Writing is a slow process, but it is so fulfilling and watching your story grow with you as a writer, there’s nothing quite like it.
I am so proud of what I have done up until today, and with NaNoWriMo 2020 on our doorstep, to all those participating this year:
I am not participating I wish I could (in fact I always thought I’d be writing my novel’s sequel this NaNoWriMo), but there is still work to be done on book 1 and my time is pretty strained!
I hope you all get to read my final novel when it’s out there, and I hope you all love it!
NaNoWriMo is hard.
Don’t give up, and whatever you do, don’t feel the need to publish what you have at the end of November.
Take your time, and let your book shine!
That’s it from me today!
You can even connect with me on Linkedin!
Comment below your own novel-writing experience, and if you have any tips or tricks you’d like to share with me: do so!
See you next time writers and good luck with the marathon!