NaNo Tip No. 30: Rewriting

This is it the very last tip of NaNoWriMo 2009! At the end of this day you will be done! Woohoo!

Of course, you’re not really done. Not even if you managed to finish a whole novel in one month. Though if you did, congrats! I’ve never managed that. My hat is off to you. As it is to everyone who took part this month no matter how many words you wrote or how close you got to completion.

But what to do with your finished zero draft? How do you turn it into a first draft? Or better yet a finished draft?

Well that, my friends, requires a great deal of rewriting. Lucky for you I have written the essential guide to rewriting. Which, even though it is now almost two years old still contains much of my accumulated wisdom on rewriting. Here is a tiny preview:

There are two basic kinds of rewriting: structural and sentence level. Most beginner writers get caught up in sentence level changes. They go over their manuscripts deleting and switching words around (what’s called line editing in the biz). They do this before they’ve learned how to fix the structure. The result is lots of shifting around of deck chairs while the Titanic sinks.

The rest is here. I hope you find it useful.

But whatever you do take at least a week off between drafts. Your brain deserves a break.


  1. wandering-dreamer on #

    First off, a big thanks you to for putting up all of these bits of advice, they really helped out and even reading a new one every day helped keep me on track. So thanks bunches for that!
    Definitely taking a week off before I start editing this thing, although that’s more because I’ve got my finale English papers coming up in a few days and need to start studying for exams as well. But editing this is going to be, interesting. I’ve got tons to cut, lots of stuff to re-word and a friend who has offered to help me out as an editor since I get really bogged down in the grammar.
    And congrats to everyone else who finished, go celebrate and take a break!

  2. Justine on #

    Congrats, wandering-dream! Enjoy your break and good luck with your English papers.

  3. Philip on #

    I posted this on Scott’s blog yesterday, but again: thanks for all the tips. More than a few were helpful, and since I’m nowhere near finished with the book itself I’ll probably be using a lot of the others as I continue into next month and the month after and… I cracked 50K words yesterday, so techinically I’m a winner, but it’s like winning a sprint and then continuing into a marathon.

    Thanks again, though.

  4. Julie Polk on #

    Hi Justine —

    Quick question – did you mean the third and fourth links to go directly to your how to rewrite guide? At the moment they link to the zero draft Nano tip.

    Thank you to you and Scott for these. I’ve written more faster than I ever have, and I’ve now got a big juicy mess of a (nearly complete) nano draft that I cannot wait to keep working on, which is more than I’d ever hoped to get out of this experience. And I’ve learned a ton, which is definitely what I’d hoped for, and which these posts have been part of. Many many thanks!

  5. Justine on #

    Philip: Thanks and good luck! And, yeah, novel writing really is a marathon.

    Julie: Fixed.

    You’re welcome. So pleased it worked out for you.

  6. Laura Sibson on #

    Thank you so very much for taking time to post every even day of this month! Though I didn’t clue in until halfway through the month, I looked forward to your posts, alternating with Scott’s, and there was more than one occasion that one or both of you inspired me to keep at it. I passed 50,000 in word count yesterday and I’m spell checking before uploading, even though the story is not actually finished. That might be an example of line editing rather than structural editing 🙂

    Thanks again for your kind words when I met you at Children’s Book World in Haverford, PA.

  7. Steph on #

    Hey Justine!
    I’ve been so busy lately but I really appreciate you and Scott doing these awesome tips… December will be the month they go into action and I can’t wait!
    Also I wanted to say THANK YOU! After finishing Scott’s Leviathan I ran to the store and picked up the paperback How to Ditch Your Fairy and read it in like 2 days! It was so much fun that Saturday morning I rushed down the stairs so fast that I tumbled like half way down and landed hard on my butt. :-/ Still sorta sore but it was worth it, I got to spend the rest of the day finishing it while resting.
    THANKS SO MUCH! I can’t wait to read Liar <3

  8. Addy-la on #

    Wow! After reading and worthing on my book this month! I feel to much better about it! What would i do without you and Scott!!! Thanks for all of your tips!

  9. Mary Elizabeth S. on #

    Congrats to everyone who did NaNo! I was not among you, sadly, though at least some of my friends were. I am amazed by all of you just for trying.

    And thanks, Justine and Scott, for giving out those tips, because they were helpful and inspiring even to those of us who did not do NaNo. You guys are so cool. 🙂

  10. scarey on #

    Thank you for posting these.
    they have helped so much, i even copied them all into a word document so i can look at them for further reference.
    they have helped me so much with the three books i am working on.

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