Nanowrimo Guide
5 min read

Revising your first draft

The image has text reading "Revising your first draft" as well as the logo for NaNowrimo, National Novel Writing Month, and First Draft Pro, a writing app for novelists who need writing software.

Big picture thinking is what gets you through Nanowrimo! For the whole of November, you banish your inner editor and let the words flow uninhibited from brain to page. But with your first draft done, it’s time to invite your inner editor back and have a closer look at the shape of your story. 

With that in mind, here are three things to think about when revising your first draft. 

🥲 Get ’em in the feels

The whole point of a story is to make you feel something! It’s easy to get so wrapped up in writing, that we forget how our story might feel to a reader. 

When you’re going through your manuscript, try to experience your story and allow yourself to have emotional reactions to it. At the same time, watch how you respond (Joy? Anguish? Resentment?) and try to identify what made you feel a certain way. Try to be as specific as you can. Naming and articulating those feelings will help you to create a more moving and immersive emotional experience for your reader. 

📍 Go back to basics

We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again: always keep your story basics in mind. Everything – your genre, your protagonist’s character arc, your themes – must work together to serve the overall plot. 

If you can’t see the wood for the trees, checking in with your original intentions helps you stay focused on what matters, making it easier to decide what to keep and what to cut. 

🧐 Hone your editing eye

Be mindful of the pace of the novel for your reader! Keep an eye out for info dumps, repetition and wordiness. Trim the excess where you can, or rewrite it more succinctly. 

If you’re struggling to separate what’s necessary from what’s superfluous, try reading aloud to yourself. Giving voice to your writing makes it easier to hear what the eye often just skips over!

Editing is a multi-phase process and you may still want to collaborate with an editor to refine your writing even further. But using these strategies to work through your manuscript will give you a good sense of how your story feels to a real-life reader – and help you kickstart the rewriting process!