How to Revise Your #NaNo Masterpiece #amwriting (last day to sign up)

Right now you’re thinking one (or both) of two things:

  1. Hang on, if it’s such a masterpiece, why would you need to revise it?
  2. If I have to revise it, why would you call it a masterpiece?

Well, dudes, both are true.

unpolished diamondI’ll start with #2 first, just to make sure you’re paying attention.

If you finished a novel, or even if you got 50,000 words down during November, you’ve created something amazing. For some of you it was your first novel or first finished writing piece. So whatever you accomplished is a masterpiece.

Now for #1

Think of diamonds. Most first draft novels are like a lump of sparkly gray rock, and it needs some major cutting to be ready to show the world. Some manuscripts, especially for experienced writers, just need a little polish.

But chances are your book needs some major renovations.

That’s the difference between editing and revising. (Even if you’ve already read my post about that, go back and read it again. The distinctions are significant and make the difference between a good book and a great book.

I used to absolutely detest, abhor, loathe, despise (fill in thesaurus gem of your own) rewriting and revising. I’d put some cosmetic touches, get rid of half the “thats” and call it done. But the more I write, the more I have discovered that it takes 2-3 passes on a novel before you can add in all the layers and nuance, and develop the subplots or tweak them so they better support the theme and main plot line. Whenever I have taken the additional step for a thoughtful rewrite/revision, I have made the book infinitely better.

Even if you spent a long time planning (and I guarantee most of you did not….) you will benefit from putting in some more work before you toss this puppy out onto Kindle.

So it should come as no surprise that even a solid NaNo effort can benefit from some thoughtful revision of the structural elements like character, theme, etc.

So, how do you go about this?

Give yourself and your writing career a holiday gift!

HTRYN-FLAT-Course-Advert-300In the past I have taught some revision seminars, but this year I have too many irons in the fire. In fact, I didn’t even participate in NaNo, which was so painful, since I’ve been an enthusiastic supporter (and winner!) for years. In fact NaNo has been a huge inspiration for me every year, even after I became a full-time writer.

If you’ve read more than a couple of my posts about planning and writing a novel or you used my book How to Be a NaNoWriMo Winner, it will be no surprise that Holly Lisle has been a huge influence on my writing. She’s also a goddess when it comes to revision. She teaches an amazing in-depth online class (How to Revise Your Novel) that forces you to pick apart your book (yes, it can feel like chopping up the baby), but the dissection and analysis will make the book a much better book.


“When Even The Pros Crash And Burn While Rewriting Their Books,
How Are YOU Supposed To
Get Revision Right?”

You will feel like a real writer as you go through the lessons. I know you already wrote a novel, so what do I mean? You’ll look at your story at so many more levels than you would otherwise. Once you learn these techniques, you will start to apply them to writing, so you have less to do to revise a future piece.

HollysWritingClasses-2015-Logo-200x200-FLATSo, the shortcut to revising is to take Holly’s wonderful class rather than trying to do it yourself, or picking apart beta reader comments. You will never get better advice about rewriting a story than when you apply tried-and-true techniques to what you already know you want to achieve in a story. Plus you will get advice and support from other people in the class on whether you’re on the right track. You’ll also get feedback from Holly, which is priceless!

For full disclosure, I am one of Holly’s affiliate partners. But that’s only because I have taken her classes in the past and can honestly recommend her as a teacher and can offer genuine raves on her techniques.

In fact, this time around I’m going to join in again and work on a book that’s been gathering dust, unloved and untouched in a corner. By the end of the class I’ll have a real masterpiece, and so will you!


Find out all the good stuff from Holly about what she’ll be teaching and how to SIGN UP!

Also, feel free to ask me questions along the way as well!

If you don’t decide to take the course, I highly recommend any of her other courses or books. You’ll be surprised how much you can learn. If you put even one or two techniques into each of your future projects, you’ll find your writing (and your reviews and sales) improving with every new release.

This is going to be so much FUN.

So Here’s Holly’s GuaranteeSatisfaction Guaranteed

  • Every single lesson of this course will be worth your time, will help you reach your writing goals, and will get you closer to writing the books you want to write, rather than the books you just end up with.
  • You will have every resource you need to understand what’s going on, and to understand what you need to do each step of the way.
  • If at any point during the first four months of the course, you are dissatisfied with what you’re learning, contact Holly at Student Support (the HELP DESK on every page of your classroom) and let her know you want to quit, and tell her you want a refund on your last lesson. If you had more lessons due that month, she’ll include a pro rata refund for the lessons you didn’t receive that month as well. (Don’t worry. Every student has direct access to Holly. No intermediaries. No run-around.)
  • She’ll give you your lesson refund, no questions asked, and cancel your course immediately so you won’t be charged again.
  • You’ll have one full week to decide on any lesson you receive, right up to the day and time your next lesson appears in your classroom.








Pacing Your Novel 1: The Right Mix of Tortoise and Hare

Creative Commons License. Source GRANDVILLE Jean, illustration from the 1855 edition of La Fontaine's Fables

Creative Commons License. Source GRANDVILLE Jean, illustration from the 1855 edition of La Fontaine’s Fables


In my survey of your biggest rewriting challenges, many of you indicated pacing of your story among the most difficult.


What is Pacing?

Pacing refers to how slowly or quickly time passes in the story: the pace of time’s passage.

It’s important to realize that pacing is not constant over the course of a story or novel. You may want to speed up time in some places or slow it down in others. The first challenge is knowing where to do so. The second challenge is showing the correct pacing.


Fast Pacing

You’ve certainly read a book that kept you glued to the page, barely able to turn pages fast enough to keep up with the action. Some authors keep the frenetic pacing across chapters so you can barely find a place to breathe, take a break or relax.

If you’re writing an action/thriller that’s all well and good, but fast pacing doesn’t give you much time to analyze the thoughts, feelings or reactions of your characters. Fast pacing focuses on a rapid-fire series of events. It’s all about the action.


Slow Pacing

You’ve also read books were it seems nothing ever happens. The characters wander through the story having feelings, emotions and inner monologues. You know them extremely well, but they don’t do anything.

Of if the characters are doing something, the POV character spends so much time analyzing every single motion, every grain of sand on the beach or every polka dot on someone’s dress, that the details may overwhelm the action.

Slow pacing lets you explore characterization, emotions and reactions. It also lets you include more setting and description.
[box type=”bio”]

Sign up for the Smooth Draft newsletter to get exclusive writing and revising tips, special offers on Smooth Draft services and more.


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License

The Right Mix

Very few stories are all action or all reaction and description. A well-paced story includes sections of both fast- and slow-paced scenes. How do you choose which scenes should be fast, and which slow?

Let’s separate scenes into two kinds: action and reaction. Some writers call these scene and sequel. The first type is faster-paced, full of action and moves the plot of the story along. The sequel or reaction is a slower-paced scene that allows your characters to reflect or react to the previous action or plot development. In such scenes, you can take more time with thoughts and emotions.

Think about a roller coaster. It inches up the first hill, giving you time to anticipate the thrill of that first big hill. The contrast between the slow and the fast sections of the ride–or your story–will add to the reader’s enjoyment. For example you may find that slowing the pace down just before a big scene will add to the suspense and to the effect of the action or revelation in the big scene.

How to Speed the Pace

Use punctuation and sentence structure to increase the pace of the action. Shorter sentences, fewer details and more dialogue can convey a fast pace. Watch that you don’t use too many short or one-word sentences. Vary the sentence style and length or you can over do the speed and lose some clarity.

“What was that?”

“A car back–”


“That was not a car.”

“Tom, someone’s shooting at us!”

He grabbed her hand and pulled her down, away from the window.

“Call the cops, Mary. Now.” Tom let go and raced toward the door. His heart pounded.


There’s not much description here, but you get the idea of what’s going on pretty well without it.


How to Slow the Pace


When you use longer sentences, more complex sentences, emotion and reactions, you will slow the pace down. Let’s revisit the scene above where Tom left Mary after they heard shots outside the house.


Mary watched Tom go out the back door. Who was shooting at them and why? What had Tom gotten himself into this time around? Since he’d quite the force and set up shop as a private investigator, it had been one problem after another. At this point, Mary was never sure whether he’d come home each evening. She lay awake every night wondering whether she’d get a call or a knock at the door to let her know he wouldn’t be coming home again. Ever.

Two more shots rang out and echoed around the room. Tom had flipped the lights off as he left and Mary sat on the floor near the window in the dark, cold from the tiled floor seeping into her body and leaving her shivering with fear and dread. Her fingers trembled as she played with the hem of her dress. She bit her lip until she tasted blood.


Making Choices

Have you read a story where you knew more about what kind of wallpaper there was in the character’s kitchen than you did about how she felt when her husband left her? What about a story that seems to be a list of everything the character did from the moment she woke up until she fell asleep that night?

Another aspect of pacing involves deciding what scenes or actions you can leave out of a story. This will vary by genre, but in general it’s not necessary to include every movement and detail in a story and you don’t need to go completely linearly and chronologically.

You’ll want to be sure to include more details only if they 1) add to the story and 2) work for that particular character’s POV. You can absolutely bring in characterization by what details a character notices, and how he responds to them.

For example, if your MC is a police detective in pursuit of a speeding car, he’s not going to notice the landscaping of the houses they drive past, unless of course the fleeing suspect drives into the middle of a neighbor’s lawn and ends up in the fountain.

If someone’s dress or perfume or some other seemingly insignificant detail reminds your MC of a past event or brings out some characterization, then include them—sparingly.


He entered the house and the aroma of gingerbread made him feel like he was five years old again, walking into his grandmother’s kitchen.


You can and should skip any details—description or action—that doesn’t add to the story or characterization. When finishing a scene or chapter, ask yourself, what’s the next important thing that happens to this character? If it happens to be a day or a week later, then there’s no reason to include the intervening time frame—at least for him. If something important happens to another character, then include the scene, in that other character’s POV.


I’ll revisit the issue of pacing later, but I hope that this helps you make some important decisions about when to speed or slow the passage of time. Feel free to ask questions, or bring up specific examples where you’re not sure about how to pace a scene or chapter.


[author] [author_image timthumb=’off’][/author_image] [author_info] EM Lynley runs Smooth Draft Editing. She has worked in high-tech and high-finance and is now a full-time writer and editor. She has written and had published over 20 titles of fiction. Visit her Amazon Bookshelf. [/author_info] [/author]