Well, Camp NaNoWriMo June edition has been over for nearly a week now. It’s time to return to “normal” life. Time to clean up the neglected house and wash the camp smell (what even is that camp smell, remember the one from when you were a kid?) from your clothes and sleeping bag. Summer camp is over … for now.
I don’t know about you, but I’m winded. This time felt like a full-on marathon. I fell behind every weekend, but somehow managed to catch up by Wednesdays-ish. I’m not saying I’m such a great writer that the muse never leaves me usually, but man! I could not find her anywhere this time! I was mad and frustrated (and to be fair, this was a pretty horrible June), but every time I thought about just quitting, I turned on reruns and got to work. I did not wait around for the muse.
Normally, after having crossed the 50,000+ word finish line, I walk away for a day. I don’t think about the project. I just emotionally detach. Then, I return to my computer and delete everything I have just written. No joke. It’s all about the process for me. I get a whole month to do nothing but daydream (well, and work). It’s stressful, hectic, and therapeutic.
July 1st hit Sunday, and I didn’t delete this one. I’m not going to. This is the first thing I’ve written where I know it’s bad, but I’m going to keep on with it anyway. And oh is it bad!
I recognise the draft is half written, if not less. There’s so much more to the story that I haven’t gotten to yet. I just stopped at the end of a paragraph after I passed 50,000 words and walked away. I’m taking July off (or trying to; my brain won’t stop ticking) and then doing the August edition of Camp NaNoWriMo to get the next 50,000 words done. I know, they say not to go into the process with anything written, but I’m a rebel, and I need more story. Then, I’m off to revision, which is probably the longest part of the process, if not the most stressful.
Are you up for revising your draft? I’m not a professional writer, but I am a professional editor. Here are some tips I’ve given/used:
1. Walk away. I know I just said this is where I decide to delete my manuscripts completely, but you really do need to separate yourself for a little bit. Otherwise, you will not be able to see the glaring plot holes you’ve just created or how flat the characters you love really are. You need this time of rest. Stephen King, in On Writing, recommends at least 6 weeks.
2. Print out a copy of your manuscript double-spaced and grab a red pen and pencil. I really recommend double-spacing your lines. It gives you room to add notes between lines as well as in the margins. It’s really hard to fix a misused phrase or word in the tight 1pt spacing. Then, use your red pen to mark out places you know you want to change, delete, or add something to. This way, it’ll pop out at you. Also use it to identify wording issues and anything else you know needs to be changed. With the pencil, mark areas you want to come back to once you’ve read all the way through. These may be spots you think you’d like to change, delete, or add something to, but aren’t sure. Using a pencil will help you tell the difference between what you’re considering and what you’re set on doing.
3. Do not send this to a publisher or agent the second you’re through with the draft, or even after the second draft. With publishing as tight as it is, your book needs to be pretty much ready to go by the time it hits the publisher. At least, that’s what publishers prefer. There’s a ton of work that goes into a book, and not having to worry about your character whose name changed spellings halfway through the book helps immensely.
4. Copyedit and proofread your own work after each round of revision. Or, better yet, find a person you trust with the knowledge and skill to do it for you. Sometimes it’s difficult to step back enough to copyedit or proofread your own work. Sometimes it’s easiest to have another set of eyes to look through things. One thing is for sure: Make sure your manuscript is clean before you try to do anything with it. Don’t wait for the publisher’s assigned copyeditor or proofreader to clean up your mess; their job is to fine-tune the piece when it’s all finished. Chances are, if the manuscript is that messy, it won’t get picked up anyway.
Is all this work discouraging? No! At least I hope it isn’t. I find the whole thing terribly exciting, as well as frightening. There is the slightest possibility that this rough draft you’ve just written could be a great novel someday. It takes love and nurture, but it just might happen. I think that’s the most amazing part. You just never know.
How did your summer camp go?