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.








#NaNoWriMo at the 10k mark — Assess your villain

nanocrestIt’s November 6. Just past the 20% mark for the month.

How are you doing?

If you’re getting in your 1667 words per day, you should have hit 10,000 words yesterday.

Maybe you haven’t quite gotten there. I give you a huge congratulations if you have written anything!

For some of you, this may be the first time you’ve gotten a lot of words down in a concerted effort. For others this is old hat.

tenk_earnedLet’s take a step back and see what we’ve written and what we’re planning over the next few days.

How Bad is Your Big Bad?

For a story to keep readers reading, it needs a constant level of tension, conflict or worry. What’s going to happen? Will the hero avoid disaster? Will he achieve his goal? Will the right two people get together?

If your story doesn’t have you excited to write what’s next, chances are the reader isn’t going to be on the edge of his seat to turn the page (or screen) either.

Let’s take a look at the villain or opponent.

If he/she/it isn’t a big enough concern, then let’s find a way to make it bigger and badder.

4 Elements Every Opponent MUST Have

scaredIt has to be bigger and badder than your hero.

The hero and the reader should constantly be afraid of this opponent. If not, then there’s not much tension. Of course, readers are going to know your hero wins in the end, but you need to make that hero work for that win.

The opponent must hurt the hero or someone/something he loves

The opponent has to make his life hell in the meantime. Whether it’s physical pain or emotional pain, the opponent must have the power to inflict it and you must show this in the story. The pain or damage must escalate up to the final battle/conflict scene where it’s do or die.

The stakes must be high

If your hero’s goal is wimpy, the reader isn’t going to be engaged while he fights for it. Make sure the consequences of not getting the goal or high.

Death should be a real and overwhelming possibility. Whether it’s physical or emotional death, make it seem real to the characters and the reader.

The opponent must believe he is right or justified in his pursuit of the goal or hero

Unless you’re writing a James Bond novel, the opponent has to have a goal that can be justified to the point where the reader might believe it too. Making your opponent some psycho with no reason for his behavior isn’t something the reader can get behind and feel some inner conflict.

Of course, you don’t want the reader on the villain’s side, but if the villain’s goal is so outrageous, your reader is not going to necessarily believe the worst will actually happen. Give the opponent a goal and an appropriate motivation.

Now take a look at what you’ve written and what you’ve got planned for future scenes. Take a look at your character sheets, including your opponent sheet. (If you don’t have an opponent sheet, make one today!)

Don’t forget, you can download my free story and character planning worksheets, invaluable for creating rich, layered characters and conflicts.

Ask yourself these questions:

sad-writerWhat are the stakes here? What kind of death does that opponent threaten? Loss of a loved one, a job, his own death, a planet dies or explodes…

You get the idea. If your hero isn’t concerned about some type of death, find something to scare him with. Right now. Write it on a Post-it.

  • Joe’s biggest fear is that Henry is going to kill him.
  • Fred’s biggest fear is that Rachel is going to get the promotion and ruin his career.
  • Senator Nolan is afraid of losing the election to his opponent who will put forward terrible legislation.

What’s the worst thing that will happen if the opponent wins?

Can the opponent actually achieve these things and how?

Make some of those fears come close to happening. Give the hero a few close shaves. His car is run off the road. The senator’s opponent runs a negative campaign full of lies. The boss gives Rachel an important project while Fred has to deal with some BS.

How will he hurt the hero or his loved ones in the process? Make a list. Really. Write them down and place them in the story, whether it’s your outline or scene list.


What is driving the opponent?

Revenge, money, love? All those familiar motivations for crimes and misdeeds. Pick one.

If you don’t have a character sheet for the opponent, make one right now. Even if it’s an organization or nebulous concept. Ideally, you should know your villain as well as you know  the hero. Why? Because you need for the hero to know and fear the villain for his own legitimate and overwhelming reasons.

Give your opponent a backstory and dig into not only his goal and motivation, but how far he’ll go to achieve it. Who or what will he destroy? Why does he do it? How would he explain it if Anderson Cooper interviewed him? Why is the hero in his way? How will he get around the hero?

An opponent who has his own strengths and weaknesses can make a more complicated and interesting story. What if the opponent is the hero’s childhood friend? What if he wants the exact same thing the hero wants? What inner conflict can the villain cause for the hero? Would the hero ever want the other guy to win? If you’re writing a romance, you may have the hero doubt himself when he compares himself with a rival.

All of these techniques add layers to the opponent, the hero, and to the conflict between them. They will keep readers reading. They will also add many new ideas for scenes for you to write!


If you cannot answer those questions, then sit down for a while until you can.

Unless your opponent or his actions are an overwhelming and constantly overhanging fear, there’s not enough for the hero to worry about.

If you already have answers to all of those questions, ask yourself:

How can I make it even worse, scarier, more likely?

Bump up the stakes and you’ll keep the hero and the reader constantly worried, which moves the story forward and drags the reader right along with it.

Get more NaNoWriMo tips in How to Be a NaNoWriMo winner!


Countdown to NaNoWriMo: What’s Holding You Back?

nanocrestIt’s the end of September. You’ve got about a month until NaNoWriMo starts. Seems like plenty of time, right? Some of you are wondering why I’m already talking about NaNo when it doesn’t even start until November 1.

Because writing and finishing a book takes more than just the 30 days you’re planning to spend working on it during November. If this is your first time considering doing NaNoWriMo, or you’ve tried before and didn’t quite make your 50k, stay tuned because I’ll be sharing with you my tips, advice and some tricks to help you be ready to start writing on November 1, and to get 50k (or a finished story) by November 30.

writing-center-wordlieTake the quick poll below so I can see what your biggest concerns are about participating. I’ll be addressing as many of these as I can before and during November, to help you hit 50k.

What makes me an expert, you may be asking. And that’s a great question. I’ve been doing NaNo for about ten years now, and have hit the 50k goal every year. Most years I’ve finished an even longer novel by November 30. And these novels have been contracted and released by a publisher—not self-published. (Bound for Trouble was my 2013 NaNo project.)

I’ve collected the worksheets and techniques I use for developing a novel into an easy-to-use novel planning kit, How to Be a NaNoWriMo Winner.

Giveaway: Leave a comment for the chance to win a copy of my book How to Be a NaNoWriMo Winner

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.
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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]