Now what?

QuestionMarks I printed out my entire NaNoWriMo novel — all 132 pages, single spaced, all 61,578 words — and have started to read the whole enchilada for the first time since feverishly cranking it out.
I’m about half-way through reading it, and I’m not feeling what I expected to feel.
I like it. I really really like it!

This scares me. It makes me think/realize/know that I’m not objective, can’t be objective about this little blue and pink baby I gave birth to in November. How and where do I find the objectivity to edit the bejesus out of this, to make my characters as lovable — or not — to outsiders as they are to me? To make the story compelling and gotta-find-out-what-happens next? How and where can I get or develop the necessary critical and discerning eye and ear?

I’m surprised with how adrift I feel, because I’ve been an academic writer forever, and I can set a research report draft aside for a couple of days, a week, and then come back and know exactly where and how to edit and improve my draft. But this is completely different.

I know there are several places (lots, actually) that I need to flesh out both character and story, and several places where the dots need to be connected better. But I thought I’d be tossing most of my draft into a scrap pile, and I’m not feeling that way.

So: how do I become the critic? How do I revise and edit this baby and help it grow into a likable grown-up that everyone on the planet (or at least some of the denizens of Barnes & Noble) wants to know? How do you do it? Have you found any books, courses, blogs, tips that work for you? I just got an email from Holly Lisle for her online How to Revise Your Novel course. Has anyone taken this, or had any experience with her courses? Anything from anywhere — Writer’s Digest, ed2go, whatever — that you recommend?

Because right now, I don’t have a clue how to move forward. I might have to spend the rest of the day baking cookies (which is not necessarily a bad idea).

On a slightly different note — publishing rather than editing — I did find a site yesterday that’s pretty interesting: A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing by Jon Konrath. His December 27 post is full of interesting ideas on publishing and, particularly, on self-promotion. Worth a read.

Okay, I am awaiting your good ideas. Thanks in advance.

20 comments to Now what?

  • Beats the heck out of me where to go next. I thought about taking Holly Lisle’s course. But until we know what is happening with my hubby’s job I am going to refrain from spending any more money. I have one more Ed2Go class that I prepaid for. After that I’m on my own.
    I think I’ll focus on writing this year. Learn as much as I can from my friends and others in the business and post to the blog so I can keep in contact with everyone. At least it will have to be this way until our future is decided by Obama and Pelosi – neither huge fans of the space program, so it doesn’t look good.
    If we decide to do some group editing I’m still in. I think I’ll learn more this way than on my own.
    What ever you decide I wish you the best of luck! You’re a hard worker and deserve to see your writing efforts turn into success.

    • Nancy

      DS: Which ed2go course are you taking?

      I’m definitely still interested in group editing/sharing. But I guess I don’t feel like I know the right way to go about it at this point. I was really overwhelmed when I started reading my NaNo novel and realized that I couldn’t be objective or efficient or anything in reading through it — and then figuring out what to do to improve it.

      • I’m taking the Writterrific class right now. The first one. The next class is on Writing for Magazines. Something I don’t have a clue how to do. Most of my work is in either reflective or descriptive essay format. I need to learn to write for publication so I thought it would be a good class to take.
        It is a shame that Ed2Go doesn’t offer a class on how to edit and revise what they teach you to write. The Grammar course does not cover this. A good editor would make a fortune offering this class.

  • I’m so glad you posted this today, I was thinking of you. I also printed out my mss and have spent the morning reading it and I am about halfway through it. I guess I don’t know what to think.

    The last few days, I’ve been feeling pretty down about my writing, etc., so I am not sure this was the best day to read my novel, but I wanted to stick to my plan. There are parts that I think are good enough to work with, and parts that I am like, “What? This is soooo bad!” Overall, I feel like I moved the plot along too quickly (even though I lamented that it was moving too slowly when I wrote it) and I can tell that my 50k story will end up being longer if I rewrite it.

    I never heard about the Holly Lisle class, but I have the money to take a class, and I am wondering if this might be a good one for me. I wish I knew more if it was any good, so if you hear anything, let me know. It looks like we’ll need to decide soon since the price ends this week.

    • Nancy

      Well, you let us read some parts of your NaNo novel, Kathan, and I found them compelling and definitely worth working with and on.

      I think plot holes and log jams and Class V water and whatever other images I can think of that relate to plots moving too fast or too slow or too disconnected-ly are bound to happen with something like NaNo.

      I’m just worried that I’m too attached to my writing to be able to recognize these problems when and where they arise. I’m sure they’re there; I just am not detached enough to see them right now. Maybe a month wasn’t long enough for me to let this thing simmer?

      • I can never see the problems in my own writing. It is easier if I put it away for a while but I still have trouble.

        • Nancy

          I thought a month would be long enough to put it aside and then feel that I could be dispassionate about it. But it’s not — I know that at least part of why I’ve liked it on reading it now is that I’d thought it was going to be really, really bad — and I guess I’m just thrilled that it’s at least low mediocre!

      • See, I’m the opposite. All I can see is problems. I am very much like that, though, hypercritical of everything I do. So I am not sure if what I am reading is good or not!

        • Nancy

          I’m generally hypercritical too — that’s why it scared me to think that I liked what I’d written!

          I don’t know how we distance ourselves enough from what we’ve written to be good critics of our own writing.

          DS, maybe you should rent out your husband! He could get a lot of extra nappies in with us!

  • ok–check out this site Critique Circle
    It’s free but you have to give critiques to get them in return. It works on a points system. I think this could be a good option for our group. If you have a paid account then you can have private groups too. The paid account price is something like #3.50 a month. I think only one of us would have to pay the fee to have a private group but I’m not sure. .

  • I say, after you’ve read all of your novel, go over it again and make the changes YOU think will make it even better. Let your gut tell you what to do.

    That’s what I’m doing with my novel. I don’t know if my advice for you is any good, but that’s it from me.

    I’m so glad you’re liking what you read. What more can a writer ask for!!!!

    • Nancy

      Thanks for the advice, Shaddy. Part of why I’m liking what I’ve read is that I thought when I was writing it that it was SO bad that the contrast is surprising me…. It’s definitely not that I thought I was reading some break-away best seller in the making!

      • I know this sounds crazy, but this is what I have been doing.

        My husband is the kind of guy that can fall to sleep at the drop of a hat. I think it is a Marine corp thing.. anyway… I’ve been reading him a few chapters at a time, when he starts to nod off, that is where I know the most work needs to be done. When he stays alert through the whole chapter, then I know revision may not be necessary and I set it aside for a paragraph and sentence level revision.
        Since I outlined the plot lines were already in place. That saved me a step.

        • Nancy

          That sounds like an interesting approach….not sure it would work with A, but I definitely think reading out loud is good.

          That’s great that you have snore-o-rama to work for you!

        • That’s a great idea! I asked the hubs to read my first chapter last night and he thought it was interesting enough to read on. But he also had some good early suggestions. He even offered to read the entire book (sections at a time) and give me feedback. He’s an avid reader and likes the kind of story I wrote, so I think it might be helpful (along with writers reading it).

      • My husband has had sleeping problems lately, maybe if I read him my nano story it will help him get to sleep.

  • Nancy

    Ah…. Looks like it might be time to exert some ‘peer pressure’ on A. He’s made some decent big-picture strategy suggestions for approaching the editing process, but nothing specific to what I’ve written.

  • Nancy

    Kathan — have you decided yet whether or not to take the Holly Lisle course?

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