National Novel Revision Month

I imagine most of you know about NaNoWriMo, in which writers do their best to produce 50K words in a month. I'm in two minds about it.

I used to be almost entirely negative, but Sophie Littlefield credits NaNoWriMo with making her the success she is today. Sophie's brilliant. If she reckons NaNoWriMo's a good thing, then I'm not going to argue (much).

My biggest worry is NaNoWriMo doesn't reward revision, which is 90% of good writing. NaNoWriMo is encouraging people to concentrate on the easy bit.

I therefore propose December be declared National Novel Revision Month.

Writers who've completed NaNoWriMo revise their ms in December, and then send the original and the revision to three other randomly selected WriMos, without telling the readers which is which. If 3 out of 3 readers pick the revision as the better then you have successfully completed NaNoRevMo.

15 comments:

Sophie Littlefield said...

hey! i have an idea. every day i'll revise a little, then send you the revisions and you'll correct them and send them back. Then i'll revise some more, and you'll email me some hilarious links you found online. The next day i'll do a bit of revising and we'll tweet @ each other fifty times or so. The next day I'll skip revising and we'll talk fashion again...think it'll work?

Kari Lynn Dell said...

Um, no. Because participating would require me to allow another human being to see my actual first draft. *shudder* I have to down a handful of antacids just to read through it myself.

No eyes other than mine get to see my manuscripts until at least the third draft. And that's if the first draft went remarkably well.

Gary Corby said...

Brilliant plan Sophie. Especially the bit about me talking fashion. Couldn't possibly fail.

Gary Corby said...

Hi Kari, but the difference is, you have all the motivation you need. If you don't do NaNoWriMo you're safe.

Funny how differently people work. I talked to one writer at Bouchercon whose books I like, and discovered they were all effectively first drafts! This person did almost no revision but they always came out well!

Stephanie Thornton said...

Wow- having a first draft come out publishable boggles my mind. I wonder how much editing that writer did while writing the draft.

I have to plow through the first draft just to get it done. Only then am I allowed to go back and edit. I learned that lesson the hard way- the first 100 pages took a year and they are still being edited.

Gary Corby said...

Hi Stephanie,

I have a feeling the difference lies between those who began life with typewriters and those who grew up with word processors.

When you have to retype the page to change one phrase, you try harder to get it right the first time.

Amalia T. said...

It sounds like it would be a fun time, but I've got to let the book rest for a few weeks before I can jump in for revisions, or I just see what I THINK I wrote, rather than what's on the page. Ugh. I do tend to go back and reread and revise as I write, however, so I don't find my first drafts to be utterly repugnant...most of the time...

I'll be doing (hopefully final) revision work for the book I completed in July when December hits, ideally so I can start querying it in January. It has been a process so far, not even going to pretend otherwise.

Beth Terrell said...

Hi, Gary.

You're right about NaNo being all about the word count, but the official wisdom is in agreement with you. According to the site, December is National Finish Your Novel month (NaNoFiMo), since at 50,000 words, the book needs considerable fleshing out. March is the official National Edit Your Novel Month (NaNoEdMo), allowing for a couple of months to set the novel aside so you can see it with fresh eyes come March 1. I'm never able to hold out that long before revising, but that's the official NaNoWriMo timeline.

Great minds think alike!

Matthew Delman said...

Yeah, Gary I'd second your proposal for December to be NaNoRevMo, but I'm also in agreement with a boatload of other writers that I can barely look at my first drafts when they're first completed (my eyes start hurting after awhile and I get antsy).

You're probably right about the typewriters vs. computer thing. Computers have made it a heckuva lot easier to write "shitty first drafts" as Anne Lamott calls them because the editing can be instantaneous for the very first time. Writing longhand, or using a typewriter, means you have to consider everything before you set down word one.

Gary Corby said...

Good point about needing the break between, Amalia, and good luck with revisions and querying! I didn't realise you were so close to done.

Beth, I had no idea NaNoWriMo covered those other months, and I'm not sure many others know either. How come we hear so much about November but not December and March? Do as many people enroll for them? Thanks so much for telling me.

Matt, I understand how most people don't want to show their first draft, but somehow it's never bothered me personally. My firsts tend to be okay with what's written, but have huge holes. I might be halfway through a dialogue, realise I've lost the way, so move on to the next action scene, leaving the previous dialogue up in the air. When my unconscious tells me what's wrong, usually weeks later, I'll go back and fix it. So my first drafts read like a movie where they forgot to shoot half of every scene. Every now and then something will flow nicely first time, but that's sadly rare.

Amalia T. said...

Thanks! And yes, I'm pretty far along--the research I've been doing into Norse and Classical things (excluding Troy, which is for an entirely different book) has been a little bit after the fact to fill in details on my revisions and double check my facts-from-college. Also, I'll admit, because I'm kind of in love with the history stuff I've discovered and can't stop myself digging through it!

As for the other parts of Nano--they're more independent study. As I understand it, March's revision/editing "program" is run by someone loosely associated with Nanowrimo, but not officially part of it. I've never enrolled in it, but I did take apart and put back together my last Nanowrimo project last March purely by coincidence. It was more rewriting entirely from the ground up than it was "editing" if you ask me, but the purposes were still served. I don't have any of the details or numbers about any of it though.

Shelby said...

I was thinking about this very thing all day yesterday. December absolutely must be national revision month. It's the only thing that makes sense.

Well, there are other things that make sense. But I digress..

Kari Lynn Dell said...

I'm like you, Gary, in that my first drafts tend to have crater-sized holes. I'm a real seat of the pants writer and my characters change a lot from beginning to end of the first draft. So when I start that first re-read, sometimes I barely recognize them.

I also go way overboard with dialogue tags in first drafts. And the word 'just' pops up everywhere.

Gary Corby said...

Hi Shelby, welcome to the blog, or at least to the blog comments.

It does make sense, though a lot of people are pointing out there should be a rest period between writing and revising. Perhaps revise in March as Beth says?

Gary Corby said...

Kari, I've just realised you're my long lost sister.

Not only do we both write best seat of the pants, but we have the same sort of first drafts, and we both over-use the word "just".

I just have to sweep through the first draft and remove it.