After Nano, most people are so relieved to be finished with the month of November, they aren't quite ready to face the rest of the work. That's OKAY.
If you finished your Nano project, my first and ONLY suggestion is to set it aside. You are not ready to show it to anyone. It's a rough draft in the roughest form. This piece of coal needs a lot of pressure and polish to turn it into a diamond. Click save, back up in several places on your computer and an external place, whether on a flashdrive or a dropbox. Then don't look at it again until after Christmas. Mark it on your calendar. It will be an extra special gift you give yourself.
Did you cross the Nano finish line with 50K words and your story isn't completed? You're in good company. You took risks, you created characters and you have part of a story that may or may be connected to other parts. My advice is for you to continue on, persevere until you type THE END. Set aside writing time each day or week, whatever works for you and keep going. Once you write THE END, read the second paragraph ^ and set it aside for 3 or 4 weeks.
Is this your first Nano? You might want to take some time while you're waiting for the gift opening to study up on story structure and characterization. This will help you when you get back to that masterpiece awaiting you.
No matter how much you love your story please do NOT try to edit right away and DO NOT sub right away. Your baby won't be ready for public viewing for a little while.
If you did Nano, what is your favorite post Nano tip? Please share in the comments below.
Currently I’m in transition. Summer means travel time for many people and us, too. We escape north to avoid the intense summer of Nevada. When I'm on a road trip these days, the destination is my main goal.
With movement on my horizon and after talking with a couple of writers this week about necessary scenes in stories, it naturally led me to a meditation on movement in writing.
Movement propels the story forward. Anything that isn’t directly moving your story ahead may mean you are bogged down in unnecessary details. When I'm on a road trip and get side tracked due to construction or detours, it isn't moving me forward on my journey.
Many beginning writers focus on showing us every detail and making each character connect to the story. However, effective storytelling doesn’t need these details. As a reader I skip this kind of writing. As an editor, I caution writers against it. On my road trip I have a destination in mind and want to get to the next important stop.
The following fictional example of letter writing illustrates this point: I write a letter/email to a friend and say I went to dinner with John. My letter reading friend can assume I called John, decided where to meet, when to meet, who was driving, what we ordered, what the waiter said, and all these details without me spelling them out in my letter. I can then skip to the relevant information of the dinner in which John told me he planned to divorce his wife.
In the above example if I stopped and spent two pages telling how we got to dinner, something important should happen along the way to move the story forward. Perhaps I used those two pages to show John’s reluctance to talk and added tension before the big reveal. That could work. If I didn’t do that and just gave the details, the two pages can be cut.
Each scene in your story should add to either plot or characterization. Cut the chatter. You want to make your story realistic, but that does not mean real.
If you are showing character or plot elements which might not be readily apparent, but is needed background for the story’s progression down the road, keep the scene. Readers can be patient if they see little pay-offs along the way. I am patient on my road trip if we stop for a purpose-especially if it's entertaining.
A note to pantsters: Because you didn’t plot more than a couple scenes ahead, you sometimes use filler chat as your characters tell you what happens. That is fine for your first draft, but be sure you go back and cut it in revision.
Some questions to ask: What is the objective of this scene, conversation or description? What’s the important part? Is there anything that can be cut to make it more relevant? Is this scene important to move my plot and characters forward?
Antagonist: The villain of the story or the person who blocks the protagonist.
Author Intrusion: The author is suddenly "telling the story" rather than the narrator.
Cliché: Hackneyed expressions which we've all heard. It beats me, why we can't let sleeping dogs lie are two examples of trite clichés. While some clichés carefully placed can give us a regional or historical flavor, most times it's best to avoid them—especially in narration.
Cut: Take out or remove the line/words/paragraph/scene.
Dialogue tags, or speech tags: He said, she said or She said as twirling her hair, or Action tag: She twirled her hair. Tags identify your speaker so your reader can follow along. Don't overdo dialogue tags, but have enough to distinguish between your speakers.
Genre: The category in which a story is placed. Your editor might point out something you've written which isn't appropriate or doesn't belong in the genre you've written.
Infodump: This can be backstory or technical explanations regarding your space ship's engine, but whatever it is, you've stopped the story's forward motion.
Point of View: An editor might say something changes point of view or breaks POV. She is referring to the POV character. Most beginning writers can't write effectively in omniscient POV without head-hopping so sticking with one character at a time is best. Even if you are sticking with one character you can slip out of POV if you write: His eyes twinkled. If your hero is the POV character, he can't see his eyes unless looking at a mirror.
Protagonist: The hero/heroine of your story.
Purpose: An editor might question the purpose of a scene. Purpose is the reason for the scene, what you are trying to convey.
Slush: unsolicited manuscripts--the pile a publisher/editor/agent reads through.
Some acronyms: WIP=Work in Progress, MC=Main character, MS=Manuscript, YA=Young
adult, MG=Middle Grade
Telling: Usually accompanied with the words too much. The editor means you probably need to revise and get more into the character's head and the action. See other posts regarding showing vs. telling.
In no way is this intended to be a comprehensive list. In fact, if you have come across something that isn't included, let me know and we'll add it to the list.
Even if you aren't writing an action story, using vivid action verbs helps your writing pop off the page. You can add color and punch to your scene by choosing smart verbs that do double duty. If you use the correct verb, you'll rarely need one of those dreaded adverbs. You could write: Bob ate my spaghetti. (An ordinary sentence tells what happened.) As a first draft it's OK. When revising, see if you find passages where you can use words to sculpt something extraordinary.
Bob gobbled my spaghetti.
Bob inhaled my spaghetti.
Bob nibbled my spaghetti.
Bob slurped my spaghetti.
Do you get an altered picture of Bob with each verb? This little technique tints the painting of your characterization.
The workshop on Show vs. Tell went very well today.
Some highlights were the questions to ask on revising telling to be more showing.
Look for long narrative passages where you've used a lot of BE verbs. (be am was were etc.)
What emotions am I trying to convey?
What senses have I used? Where can I add sensory language?
What vivid verbs can I include to add emotion?
What details are important and add to the scene?
Is there a place for dialogue to complete the picture?
is an author and editor. Her former career as an English teacher assists her to help others through editing services. She's available for workshops. See her Editing Services Page for details. Be sure to get updates by clicking the RSS feed below for continuing writing tips.