April and July are Camp NaNoWriMo months. These are opportunities to continue your previous year’s NaNoWriMo project or start something new. Late in March, I got an email inviting me to sign up for camp, so I figured what better way to get a push on my editing than another timed challenge.
Camp NaNoWriMo has a whole bunch of camp-style activities and you can be assigned a cabin so you can collaborate and hang out with other writers. I wasn’t really keen on that, but I reckon it works well for a lot of people – I might try it another time. Instead, I opted to be a single camp goer and I logged in to the site to set up my individual tracking challenge. I decided that an achievable goal was to edit for 15 minutes a day, every day throughout April. Whilst that doesn’t sound like much – a total of 450 minutes (7.5 hours – so a full day’s work) – I wanted to be realistic. And besides, you can achieve a lot in a short amount of time.
As I’d mentioned in my previous post, I was a bit slack post-NaNoWriMo 2016, and had barely dragged myself to the halfway point of my first novel read-through. My plan for April’s Camp NaNoWriMo was to finish that read-through and to take notes whilst I did so. After that, I’d tackle dealing with any issues I found, and also with getting my novel out of a single Word document and into something more author-friendly.
By the end of week one, I’d finished my first read-through, and had jotted down notes in the margins of the printed pages outlining weak areas, plot points that needed more explanation, dialogue that needed tightening up, problems with language and consistency, and just general stuff that I thought needed more work. It was a fun process because I’d already reached the halfway point of the novel in my earlier reading, and now was at the point where things were clearly starting to come together and it was like reading a real book! But now the real work would begin.
The next step I took was to download Scrivener, which is a piece of software you can use to collate your novel, as well as any research, character profiles and all that extra supporting material you end up with along the way. As a past NaNoWriMo winner, one of my prizes was a 50% discount for the PC or Mac version. So after my trial had lapsed, I took advantage of that discount and bought the software.
I spent the next week importing my novel from Word, and then learning how Scrivener worked. When I wrote my novel, I didn’t define chapters, but there were clear scenes and sections. Even though they ended up being short in some cases, these sections translated well enough to become chapters at this stage; some with single scenes, some with multiple. Finishing that process was a big achievement because I could see the body of work in an organised manner, rather than a single long document.
I then went on to transcribe my hand written notes from my original manuscript, setting them up as comments like you do when reviewing a Word document. Scrivener is very powerful because it has a range of annotation tools that can be used in different ways. I’m still learning, but I found the ability to cross reference and link to other chapters/scenes was really helpful to relate my notes and comments back and forth. I also started adding character profiles, and general notes for areas that needed more research.
The following week involved going through and reworking any references to one of the supporting characters. I’d referred to this character as “she” and “it” inconsistently (she’s a cat, in case you were wondering), and also had described her early on in a way that the main character wouldn’t do yet (having not had the appropriate knowledge at that stage).
As you can see, editing isn’t just re-reading your work and checking for typos. There is a lot of administrative work involved in getting something to a point where you can even start rewriting. By the end of the month, I was ready.
I would consider my novel is now at a third draft, and for April’s Camp NaNoWriMo, my grand total of editing was 547 minutes (so just over 9 hours). Perhaps is doesn’t sound like a lot put that way but I’m really happy with the progress! On the last night, I had friends around and I really enjoying discussing the book with them. They asked great questions, and I was easily able to answer them, which I think is testament to the soul I feel I’ve given the story. I hope to maintain a similar pace in the future – 15 mins a day is not a lot to commit to and it’s amazing what you can achieve.
This post comes in a short while before I take on my second Camp. This time, I need to work on the hard stuff – all that cheesy dialogue and weak plot stuff from the first half of the novel. Wish me luck! I’ll let you know how I go!