As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m not participating in NaNoWriMo in the traditional sense this year. Instead, it was my hope to use the month of November to polish up a previous NaNo project, Hidden, in preparation for querying. In October, I had some great help from some beta readers including the amazing Michelle and Ann and came to a glaring realization…
I have a lot more work to do than I thought.
Though there’s no way I’m going to meet my original goal of a finished novel by December 1st, I will eventually get there. In the meantime, there’s some particular areas I’m planning to focus on, areas that all writers should consider when polishing a manuscript.
- Inciting Incident
Sometimes when writing, it feels like a book just isn’t starting in the right spot. A book should begin with the inciting incident, the trigger that sets off the whole plot. Although it’s not always necessary for the inciting incident to be in the first chapter, it typically does happen within the first several pages of a novel.
Although I had some hints of what was to come in my first chapter, there was no real trigger event. So far this month, I’ve managed to rewrite my first chapter and now have an inciting incident. Yay me!
Pacing is a very important part of crafting a plot. Obviously there are some key parts to a plot which can vary based on the type of story an author is trying to tell. Rising action, falling action, climax, conclusion… these are pretty common parts to most novels which can affect the overall pacing. Books can be action packed with relatively fast pacing or more laid back and thoughtful with slower pacing. Most books are somewhere in between. The climax should drive your reader to want to know what happens next, bring the action and emotion of the novel to its peak, and the conclusion ties everything together in a nice neat package at the end (well… sometimes).
My novel had some high action scenes but many more “informational” chapters that slowed down the pacing, making the middle kind of drag. My goal for the rest of November (and possibly December) is to compress and combine some of those informational chapters and work on emphasizing the rising action in the second half of the novel. The conclusion also needs some work as the current end is somewhat abrupt and leaves too many loose ends.
- Character Agency
I wasn’t exactly sure what this meant when I first heard the term, but it’s arguably one of the most important pieces when building a novel. Character agency is essentially the way a particular character creates or drives the plot. Why does the character feel the way she feels? Why does he do what he does? This is what readers empathize with and what can really make or break a book.
My characters are each unique individuals with their own backstories and motivations, but I didn’t really use my main character to drive the plot. Which is honestly kind of boring. He’s just kind of in the wrong place at the wrong time and things happen to him. In a character driven plot, things would happen because of him. On my next rewrite, character agency is something I hope to flesh out.
So, there you have it, my “NaNoWriMo” editing progress and a few tips for all my fellow writers out there! How are everyone else’s projects coming along out there. Throw me a comment and let me know 🙂