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 Update: At 50k and still going strong #amwriting

Winner-2014-Facebook-ProfileI hit the 50k mark and validated my NaNo novel last night. Still working away at it, but I thought you might enjoy reading the last paragraph I wrote before I realized I was over 50k.

Mike wasn’t answering his phone. Or he was just ignoring Beau. But Beau knew where Mike ate lunch at least four days a week, so he staked out a table at the Pot Sticker Emporium, a few blocks away from the Daily’s office. As Beau contemplated a doughy dumpling, the pieces fell into place. Mike was almost exactly potsticker-shaped. Apparently you were what you ate. Beau rethought all those blowjobs he’d given Jake.

Maybe he shouldn’t have swallowed.


Anyway, I’ve still got at least 25k to get this one finished, so I’ll just get back to writing.

Stay tuned for more updates on One Marine, One Hero (working title).

How is NaNo going for you this year?

FleetWeek14_00018     military-eye-candy-9

#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

How did #NaNoWriMo 2013 go for you? (poll)

If you got a contract or self-published, congratulations! Please leave a comment about where/when your book is coming out!

If you’re still working away at it, or have given up, this should be a great motivator to keep writing! Considering signing up for the Newsletter to get tips and information on how to finish and revise your novel.



Here’s another poll, about revising and rewriting


[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]EM Lynley is a multi-published author of 9 novels and two dozen shorter works of fiction as well as How to Be a NaNoWriMo Winner. Her 2013 NaNo Novel Bound for Trouble has been contracted by Dreamspinner Press for a July 2014 publication date. She also runs Smooth Draft Editing, offering a range of services from proofreading to developmental editing and coaching for writers. Visit her Amazon Author page, or contact her at[/author_info] [/author]

Revising the #NaNoWriMo Novel (Part 1) #writetip

book flying letter MEDIt’s January.

The holidays are over and you’ve probably made a bunch of writing-related resolutions you’ve already given up on.

If one of those is whipping your NaNo novel into good enough shape to publish, you’re in the right place.

By now, NaNoWriMos fall into a few different categories:

1. You haven’t looked at your story since November 30.

2. You’ve been tearing your hair out since December 1 and you still aren’t happy with the story after multiple rounds of revisions.

3. You started reading it again and gave up after a few pages or chapters because you think it’s awful.

4. You don’t have a clue what to do with it now.

5. You already revised your story and sent it off to at least one publisher or agent.


No matter which category you find yourself, I’ve got some tips and tricks to help you out. (Unless you are in #5 and already have a contract, you can still benefit from what I’m going to share with you).

Before I even get into how to revise, I’m going to let you in on a secret. I love sharing secrets because when I first started writing, I didn’t have a clue that everyone—even multi-published authors—struggle with the exact same problems I had. I’m not a perfect writer, even after years of writing and experience editing other writers’ work. In fact, it’s because I’m not perfect that I have developed a lot of strategies to work with what I’ve written, hoping to turn it into what I hoped it would be when I first started thinking about the story.

Which leads me to today’s true confession: I absolutely hate revising my work. Hate it with a passion I can’t put into words. It makes me get sweaty and dry-mouthed to think about reading the whole novel I just wrote and trying to shape into something good enough to publish. I’d rather vacuum, clean the toilet or run stadiums than tackle the seemingly overwhelming task of fixing everything I know is wrong after the first draft.

But I also love revising, at least the results. It’s so satisfying to finish a revision and realize the book is so much better now that I did clean it up. The fact is that no matter how good the first draft is—and there are many writers who end up with really solid first drafts—the second draft is always better. That means you can improve what you already have with a 100 percent guarantee, just but giving it even one revision pass.

It’s a myth that really good writers or experienced writers get it right the first time around, or even the second time around. Even someone who spent a year on their first draft and not just 30 days, is going to want and need some revision. And if you only spent 30 days on it, you’re going to need a revision.

There’s a bit of magic that happens between draft one and two that doesn’t happen any other time. All the while you’re writing the first draft, especially during NaNo when you’re trying to get your word count down, you don’t know exactly how and where the story is going. You don’t know precisely who your characters and what drives them or what they love and fear and hate. Even if you outlined within an inch of your life, the finished product is going to have some unexpected elements.

It’s only when you go back to the beginning, now with an absolute knowledge of where everything is leading, that you can objectively determine which story and plot elements work, which don’t work, and how to correct or improve both types. And that’s where the magic lies. Once you know how it ends, you can choose better how to get there.

Let’s say you’re taking a road trip from Los Angeles to New York. It’s a long road and you have lots of options to get there. Are you going to take Hwy 10 to 80 on a route through Wyoming and Colorado, or the southern route through New Mexico, Texas, and Missouri? When you write a novel, you literally have this many choices and possibilities to get from page 1 to the end.

Once you’ve driven from LA to NY, the next time you take that journey, you’ve got some experience. You may take the same route, and now you know not to stay at the Motel 6 in Amarillo, but to keep driving until you get into Oklahoma. You may decide to make a detour to a site or restaurant you missed the first time around or didn’t have time for, or arrived when it was closed.

You not only have your original experience, you can judge whether or not you made the best choices the first time around, and you can revise to incorporate things you didn’t even know until it was too late. Maybe your story would be better if the key supporting character wasn’t the MC’s sister, but his college roommate’s sister because that would allow you a little bit of a love triangle. Or your MC really needs to be from a different state, background, etc., to make the story work even better.

That’s the fun part of revising. You get to rewrite history the way you want it. The original story is not set in stone. It’s a living, breathing thing you can nurture and groom and train to do what you want it to do. It’s no longer a wild animal taking you on a runaway ride across the prairie while you hold on for dear life until you type THE END, which is how NaNoWriMo can feel, even for an experienced writer.

Hopefully, that has psyched you up for the revision process. In the next posting, I’ll talk about the difference between rewriting a story and editing a story. We’re going to take a long hard look at your novel, like a rough stone to polish into a glittering gem. It won’t be all fun and games, but I promise you’ll learn a lot about writing as you rewrite this time around.

I’d love for you to answer the poll about your biggest rewrite/revision concerns, so I can focus on the most common issues as we move through this process.


[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]EM Lynley is a multi-published author of 9 novels and two dozen shorter works of fiction as well as How to Be a NaNoWriMo Winner. Her 2013 NaNo Novel Bound for Trouble has been contracted by Dreamspinner Press for a July 2014 publication date. She also runs Smooth Draft Editing, offering a range of services from proofreading to developmental editing and coaching for writers. Visit her Amazon Author page, or contact her at[/author_info] [/author]