Thursday, December 16, 2010

Tips for Finishing Your Novel

Song of the Day: Sleigh Ride by the Carpenters 

    Hello all! Just a reminder, I'm giving away a book each to two of my followers. All you have to do is leave a comment on any blog post this week and you must also be a follower. The last day to post a comment is tomorrow! I'll randomly select two people to receive a book of their choice.
    Yesterday I received an email from Writer's Digest with the top writing articles of 2010. Two of them caught my attention. I'll blog about the other one tomorrow or next week, but today I want to talk about the one titled, Finish Your Novel in 4 Simple Steps. I'm really trying to light the fire under my butt about editing my novel. Since I've never edited such a large manuscript, I'm looking for any advice I can get my hands on. I thought I'd share since so many people are in the same boat. The following Four steps are from the article, Finish Your Novel in 4 Simple Steps by Lin Enger.

1. "Write the whole first draft first- and fast."

     Okay, I have this part covered! I wrote my novel in thirty days. You know what this rule directly translates to? National Novel Writing Month. The article states that you should just get the words on the page and not worry about editing. That's essentially the philosophy of NanoWriMo.

2. "Evaluate the Dramatic Function of Every Scene or Unit of Action."

     Here's where the real fun begins. Enger states that readers can tell if a scene does nothing for a story. The best way to start revising is to look at the opening of each chapter and scene and ask yourself the question: “What exactly happens here, and how does it surprise my character or offer some new perception to the reader?” If a scene doesn't move the story along, then cut it.

3. "Identify lulls in action where you can insert mini scenes."

     I love the way Enger says that "summaries then--long passages of exposition--are a necessary evil." She says that the best way to break up summaries that may be necessary for the story is to use some dialogue or "clips of movement." I know this to be very true. I've been told this same thing in a few of my workshops. Readers like white space. If you're not careful too much exposition can lead to boredom for a reader, which can potentially result in them losing interest in your story. And we definitely don't want that.

4. "Vary your methods of beginning chapters."

     The most important sentence under this subtitle is, "As you revise, be strategic with your chapter openings." Enger offers several examples on how you can vary your chapter beginnings. One way is to "position a character in time and instantly establish the dramatic situation." A second way is to "sketch out a period of time, rendering its mood and general character as a way to place coming events into context." This is most advantageous when a character needs to reflect on something. Third, Enger suggests "shaking things up." This is when you would throw a curve ball at your reader. Last, open a chapter by "offering some pithy observation that bears directly upon the events unfolding." Enger has some excellent examples of each suggestion in the original article. To make things clearer, I recommend reading her article. I'm printing it out and using it while I edit.

   I'm officially excited to start my edits. After reading Enger's tips, I feel like I now have some direction. It's not so scary. I hope the same is true for you. Are there any tips that you can suggest for completing a novel?


  1. I'm currently working on step one - finishing my first draft fast! Great tips, thanks for sharing.

  2. I've really learned how to love revising this past year. The hardest part to me is completing the first draft. I'm glad that we did NaNo, too, because now I have something else I can rip apart. Oh, and definitely submit your chapters to our workshops next semester. As much as I complained about it, submitting some chapters of WANTS definitely helped me whip it into shape. :)

  3. Great advice, Racquel! And congrats on your NaNo win. :-)

  4. That's what I keep in mind for the first go-over. Excellent list.
    I'm on final drafts now, they hurt my brain. The fun story-telling stuff is over. I'm working on the tedious stuff...

  5. this is a great week to join your blog isn't it? i love giveaways. I am that one who keeps on writing loads of 1st drafts so that i don't have to revise ever, but am weaning myself of that habit now.

  6. Thanks for sharing and congrats for winning Nano.

  7. Thanks for the comments everyone! :)