I’m delighted to have special guest, Susan Buchanan, from Perfect Prose Services on my blog today. She shares her top ten tips for all the NaNoers preparing for 1st November, from an editor’s perspective.
Top 10 Tips for NaNoWriMo – An Editor’s Perspective
Only a day to go. On November 1st, fingers will be poised over keyboards, ready to create the next batch of NaNoWriMo babies. You’ve done your research and are fully prepared. Cue hammering of keys for 30 days.
November 30th – the 50K words are complete and you’re at the stage of popping the manuscript in a drawer for a month or so before going back to it; that’s really when you should be looking at lining up an editor and proofreader, if you haven’t done so already. Editors and proofreaders tend to be booked up months in advance, so it’s advisable not to wait until you’ve completed your final draft and are eager to send it off to the agent/publisher or self-publish.
But even before you get your official editor to look at your work, clearly you need to make your revisions. I’m not advocating editing during that first draft, rather I’m proposing being conscious of those words you relay to the page first time. Whether you do two or three drafts or nine, here are my top tips for taking the hard work out of those rewrites. Implement these while you are doing that first draft and you’ll save yourself a whole lot of work come those later drafts.
1) Point of view – decide from whose POV the story will be told and stick to it. When you have more than one POV in a story, make sure it’s absolutely clear that the POV has changed. This might be done via a chapter change or the chapter may be named after the character perhaps, but at the very least it has to be a new paragraph. Claire can’t be wondering what William will think of her new dress and later on in the paragraph William thinks Claire looks hot! We can’t know William’s thoughts here as this is Claire’s POV.
2) Passive voice – it’s not always necessary to avoid the passive voice, but generally in fiction you will create more drama and tension and your prose will have a greater sense of immediacy if you make your verbs active where possible. ‘I was hit by a car,’ becomes ‘The car hit me.’
3) Redundancy – when talking in real life, we often describe something two or three ways without meaning to. Often this carries over to our writing. Likewise, be conscious of filler phrases or padding – lose them!
4) Clichés – yep, following on from redundancy, many of those filler phrases will be clichés. When you get into the habit of eliminating these as you write, i.e. before they appear on the page, your work will be a lot stronger.
5) Characterisation – make your characters distinctive and different enough from each other that they can’t be easily confused. If two men have emerald green eyes and shoulder-length hair which brushes their collar, readers are likely to mix them up.
6) Repetition – this can be using the same word, construction, pet phrase or even idea. If you’re aware of it before you pick up your figurative pen, you’re less likely to do it. Use a thesaurus – but make sure your word choice isn’t contrived and that it fits into both the context and the style of your novel. No modern slang in your Regency drama.
7) Adverbs – they are not to be culled entirely, but be sparing with their use. Can you say what the adverb represents in another way? Can you incorporate your adverb into the verb? Well, why haven’t you done so?
8) Dialogue tags – there’s nothing wrong with using ‘said’ and ‘told’. Far better than ‘he philosophised’, or ‘she posited’, on a regular basis or where it would sound stilted. And you don’t need tags every time someone speaks either, as long as it’s clear who the speaker is.
9) Pace – you already have your outline for your novel or piece of work. Remember you want to have those peaks and dips. Don’t have all your action skewed towards the second part of the book, or concentrated on one particular area, as you might find your readers lose interest before then and switch off. Ensure there is enough going on throughout.
10) Cheat sheet – make a list of words you commonly misspell and/or grammar constructions which trip you up, as well as a separate list of those words you overuse. Keep it beside you as you write to refer back to.
11) Yes, I know I said top 10 tips, but number 11 is the most important one of all – enjoy NaNoWriMo (and the redrafts that follow!).
Susan regularly posts editing and proofreading-related articles on her website so why not follow her website so as not to miss out on any of her advice.
As always, your comments are greatly appreciated so please feel free to add a line or two below.
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