Revising a novel can be daunting no matter what. Never mind when it's a bit...messy. And writing a novel-in-a-month often means a messy first draft. But don't despair. Just because your book may look like a wreck doesn't mean it's unsalvageable.
Reading with Perspective
I wrote The Jester's Apprentice in January 2009 (originally it was titled Philippa's Neverending Series of Pointless Conversations). I got wrapped up writing Dead Locked that same year and forgot all about Jester's for a while. Months later, I read the draft for the first time and felt sorry for the two people who had read it.
First drafts always need breathing time. Or, rather, you do. You won't necessarily make the right decisions when you're too close. If you wrote a novel-in-a-month last November, you've had about three months to leave it alone. Maybe this is enough time. Maybe it isn't. I needed more space from Jester's, but I also had another project in full swing to finish. If you're unsure if you're ready, pull out your manuscript and read it. Your reaction may gauge if you're ready to start revising.
Now, you may ask, 'Should I even bother?' You may think that meandering, padded, confusing manuscript is more trouble than it's worth. But look at it this way: you wrote a complete first draft of a novel! It's not an undeveloped concept in your notebook. It's not an outline. It's not a series of false starts. It's a complete first draft of a novel!
Do you know how hard it is to write a book? Yes, you do! Because you just did it in November. Or January. Or some other month. You wrote a whole book. A whole book that just needs a little TLC and it's ready to go out into the world. You already did one of the hardest parts of the process and you made it to the end. Why quit now? You have something this close to being done. So now I ask, should you bother?
I'm going to assume you said yes to that last question because I tell you that it is worth revising. Whatever the problems, your novel also has all the energy and excitement that you felt when you wrote it. You can always make technical improvements, but you only write with your heart once.
So you've got perspective, now you want to revise. Where do you start? Next week we'll uncover the secret first step to a successful revision. Well, not really. But I will show you how to evaluate your novel so the revision process starts out smoothly and doesn't overwhelm you. Stay tuned!
Photo by Cory Doctorow