S and I are just starting our revisions of the three novels we wrote for NaNoWriMo. “Revision,” of course, literally means taking another look, hence the name of this blog entry. The thing about NaNo novels, though, is that many times you write them so fast that when you go back to read them, it’s almost like seeing the story for the first time. “Vising,” if you will.
I particularly like numbers 22 and 23 at that second link–getting rid of the “pretty peacocks,” i.e. the pat phrases and words that have become crutches in your writing. I know what some of these are in my own novels, and I’ve started using Ctrl + F to find them and get rid of them when I finish.
The most important–and the most fun–part of revision for us is reading the book aloud. This is something I advise my students to do with their college essays, and I usually get a lot of strange looks when I suggest it. Then they all try it, and by the end of the semester, a lot of them will do it voluntarily without any prompting from me. Some of them will tell me they now read all their papers aloud at home, because it’s so helpful. And it really is. There’s no better way to find clunky or repetitive phrasing than reading aloud. It even helps in finding typos and grammatical errors, because when you read aloud, you are more likely to see what is actually on the page (or screen) in front of you, rather than just letting your eyes slide over it.
We started with Last Outpost, because that’s the one I wrote first. Traditionally I read the odd chapters and S reads the even ones. I think this goes back to when I was writing the big, million word faux memoir, and we tried to make sure that nobody got stuck doing too much of the reading. Since then, we’ve just carried on doing it that way.
The other reason I wanted to read Last Outpost first was that the ending is (spoiler alert) a bit of a downer. From Under the Shadow (another spoiler alert) ends much more happily, so we ended our read-through of my novels on a high note, with blossoming romance, rather than with futility and defeat, feeling like the world is a sad and hopeless place.
The best thing about reading through a novel you’ve just written is, of course, the sense of accomplishment that you get from seeing something that you’ve finished. The worst thing is finding all the parts that don’t quite work–a conversation that goes on too long, a joke that isn’t as funny as it seemed in your head, or a really important moment that needs more loving detail. It can be a little overwhelming, but at least we’ve got some vacation coming up when we can work on it.