Wednesday, June 27, 2012

How To Revise Your Novel: Tips From a NaNoWriMo Survivor

Happy Wednesday!  As promised, we've got an awesome guest post today.  But before we do...a little bit of (fun) business.  You see, Rate Your Story is in a bit of a conundrum...

Awhile back, we posted an 'ad' for an illustrator to do our logo.  And the wonderful Dana Atnip stepped forward.  She drew design after design (putting up with a few many tweaks and changes on our part), and came up with a final round of rough sketches.  Then, I put them to our panel of judges for a vote.

After two rounds of ties or too-close-to-call, we've decided to put the logo vote to you.  Which logo do you like better for Rate Your Story?  Vote now, and then scroll down for an AWESOME POST from newspaper and magazine editor turned YA-novelist Melissa Gorzelanczyk!

And without further ado...the logo roughs:

#1 - Scroll and Feather

#2 - Woman and Stars

The link for voting is at the end of the post.  Now enjoy Melissa's Writing Wisdom!

How to Revise Your Novel: From a NaNoWriMo Survivor
By Melissa Gorzelanczyk

In 2010, I participated in NaNoWriMo and wrote a novel in a month. I cheered, printed my winner’s certificate, clipped it to the fridge and took a well-deserved break from my amazing manuscript.

Then, January came. I decided it was time to begin the revision process. I reread my novel THE CHANNELS … and my heart sank. My work wasn’t a novel at all, it was a mish-mash of 50,000 words that didn’t fit together or tell a story or have a plot. I frowned. I sulked. And after a night of feeling sorry for myself, I decided to get to work.

One year, six months and five revisions later, a real story is beginning to emerge from the ashes of my horrible first draft.

What I learned

Patience. Resist the urge to share your manuscript with anyone until after (at least) two solid revisions. I am truly sorry for those who suffered through reading chapters from my original draft. Now I know the revision process takes a long time, maybe years, but it’s necessary. You’ll need a lot of patience to enjoy it.

Outline the major plot points before you begin writing. I won’t approach my next book the same way as THE CHANNELS. For my new work-in-progress, I’m identifying the main character’s motivations, what’s at stake, my story theme, climax and how it will end before I write the first 50,000 words. yWriter is a free software program I use that allows me to plot my book scene by scene.

Revision tips

Print a hard copy of your manuscript. Use a red pen to write notes for yourself. Focus on the big picture at first instead of perfecting the writing.

Create an outline. Write a quick summary of what happens in every chapter.

Mindful writing. Use your outline to define what you want your reader to get out of every scene. How do the events in the chapter move the story forward? This exercise helps you realize when you’re cramming too much into a certain chapter. You’ll also see what scenes can be deleted (and you won’t have to cry).

Learn along the way. Read books, articles and blog posts about how to revise a novel.    
After the third revision, approach a group of first readers. I had four wonderful first readers: my husband and three friends who read a lot and are writers themselves. (Note: Your family is probably not a good choice for constructive criticism. My husband is the exception to that rule.) Print a hard copy of your book, supply a nice red pen and hand it over with a page of specific first reader questions. Here are three questions to consider.

At the end of each revision, ask:
Is my book ready to send out? If you’re not sure, read it again and rewrite it again until you can answer YES.

“Everyone has a history. Most of it isn’t very interesting. Stick to the parts that are.” -Stephen King in his memoir On Writing

Melissa Gorzelanczyk is on Facebook and Twitter. You can read about her journey to work from home as a writer on her blog, Peace & Projects.

The vote is open until next week Wednesday.  Make sure to check back next week for the results of the Logo Vote!


  1. I prefer the scroll and feather because it is more generic to include both male and female writers as well as judges but both look great!

    Donna L Martin

  2. I voted for the scroll, too!

  3. Me too! It nods to the timelessness of this craft, and lets every writer see themselves at that scroll. I think having a physical judge on the logo handing out an award feels more intimidating. They are great, Dana and Miranda!

    And thanks to Melissa...this was a helpful post to read today!
    :) Carter

  4. I agree with the above replies. While both look terrific, I prefer the one without a person for gender & racial reasons.

    Terrific post, Melissa. Most helpful as my attempt to write that first longer book looms.

    1. Best of luck writing your book. I loved using the yWriter software since I was able to see my book in scenes, which is much more manageable than looking at a 60,000-word file.

      Thanks for stopping by :-)

  5. I love the question to ask at the end of revisions. I need to stick that on my forehead. Revise. Repeat.

    1. Sometimes I feel like the process will never end ... but just this week, I finally felt my first chapter was "ready."

      I wish you the best revising your work!

  6. This was a great post, Melissa! I'm a PB writer so writing and then editing and editing and editing a novel seems daunting to me!

    Miranda, I voted for the woman but, after reading others' reasons for choosing the scroll, I'm changing my vote. They're both terrific - Dana did an awesome job!

    1. Thank you, Lori! I'm glad you enjoyed the post. The revision process is daunting at times, but I use this quote by E.L. Doctorow to keep my perspective - “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

      Happy writing!

  7. Dana really did do a good job, didn't she! Wow!!!

  8. Even though I write children's books and chapter books, your tips were helpful, especially the one that reminds us to be patient. It's so easy to submit it to a critique group before we've revised it a few times. Thanks, Melissa! And I vote for #1...

    1. Patience is a virtue, right? One I am not very good at. But we can work on patience, for our readers' sake. :-)
      Thanks so much for reading!

  9. Melissa, very nice post. Thanks!


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