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Back in November, and last month in April, thousands of people participated in NaNoWriMo. Hopeful writers sat down and finally put words on a page to that story in their head.

 Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.

Thomas Edison

But writing the story is just the beginning.

If you’re like many writers, by the time you get to the end of your “fast” draft, it may not look anything like the rough draft you had in mind, or even the outline on which you spent many painstaking hours. Indeed, it may have taken so many rabbit trails it looks like the underbrush of the forest filled with game trails. Some paths may lay abandoned, half forged, grown over, some may be trod down to rock and dust.

Having a novel that doesn’t look anything like you anticipated is not a bad thing. It can be beneficial, for you could have realized your plot was tired, your characters uninteresting, and made the proper changes during your fast draft. Or you could have indulged those rabbit trails too much and ended up with a meandering novel that requires extensive use of the delete button.

Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.

Winston Churchill

There are endless different methods of writing, but I believe there are two main categories of first draft writers: the ones who end up with an extra long manuscript that requires much deleting, and those with a sparse manuscript that requires the addition of many details in order to make the reader see what the writer intended to convey. Neither one is wrong; both require revision.

But now that you’ve written your first draft, typed all the way to “the end,” it’s time to choose your editing path.

There are two main approaches to editing your novel:

1. Many writers recommend setting your novel aside for a month or two and focusing on a different project while you let this WIP “rest.” (If not months, at least a week, or several days at bare minimum.)

2. Other writers want to immediately revisit their WIP and begin redrafting before the ink has dried on “the end.”

So which one is right?

Personally, I find that I work best after giving my novel a week or two, maybe a month, where I don’t start on any big new project, but allow myself to ponder my first draft and some rabbit trails I wish I had taken/thought of while writing.

During that rest time, I often find myself planning new scenes in my mind and spending my time rereading editing books and books on writing craft or plotting. This time off allows me to recharge and also gives my brain the freedom to think up new plot twists and characters and realize the flaws in my novel as I work through those thoughts.

Nearly as soon as I finish a novel, my mind is clear on what doesn’t work for the plot–sometimes before I really know the plot itself. (I’m horrible at identifying the plot of my own stories, to be honest.)

But I’ve also found that I so often deviate from my outline during the first draft (or if I didn’t outline, my intentions for the first draft), that I need to go back to the drawing board and plot from square one. I will be spending more time on my current outlining and editing methods in later posts on this blog.

I’ve found the above method to be working for me now, in the hopes that when I return to my second draft, I am able to spend less time meandering down rabbit trails and instead forging ahead to the top of the hill in a straight line, and then find the quickest way down the other side. Outlining will allow me to do that, and with a young child at home, writing time is as sparse as a Bigfoot sighting.

It’s important to remember, however, that what works for me may not work for you. What works for J.K. Rowling or Neil Gaiman may not work for you. What worked for Ernest Hemingway or Charles Dickens may not work for you. So don’t be afraid to experiment. After all–what’s the worst that could happen?

Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.

Henry Ford

Sources you might find helpful:

http://www.scribendi.com/advice/nanowrimo_novel.en.html

K.M. Weiland’s http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com

Writer’s Digest: Write Your Book Four Times