Shout Out on a WIP Read-Through

Over the weekend, I read my NaNo09 novel for the first time.  I’ve had good intentions several times and have actually started puttering with the first few pages a time or two.  However, I never really got into it.  I think I was petrified–afraid it would stink worse than a road-kill skunk and terrified that the manuscript was simply too big for me to tackle.

The long weekend, with eight hours of driving time, forced me into it.

And boy am I glad I did!

Whispering Minds is a YA, psychological thriller.  It’s my first complete young adult novel and I was certain it was horrible.  60,124 words of horrible. 

Surprisingly, it wasn’t.  In fact, I cried over Granny, got a bit squishy inside when my MC cozied up to her best guy friend and had goosebumps raise the hair on my arms while watching a video over my MC’s shoulder.

Not that it was perfect.  Or anything bordering on good, but  it wasn’t a disaster.  It’s definitely clean-up-and-submit material.

And, thanks to some wonderful writer friends, I am ready to edit.  I am no longer scared by the huge word count–which is more than double my longest manuscript to date.  Instead, through critiquing my buddies’ WIPs, I’ve learned to critique my own work, not just edit.

WHAT DID I DO?

  1. Read through the entire thing as if I was reading a novel.
  2. Made notes in the margins.  Not typos or grammar or any of those bothersome things.  Rather, notes on questions, confusions, time line discrepancies and unclear passages. 
  3. Wrote a mini critique like I do for my buddies.  This helped me focus on the issues that needed fixing. 

WHAT DID I LEARN?

  1. That my writing is prone to the same mistakes everyone else makes and that by critiquing it in the same way I do for my friends, I am more apt to see my problems than when I try to edit as I read.
  2. That my characters are as flat as a road-kill skunk.  While I inherently know this is my downfall, I still write rough drafts with pathetic supporting characters.  They need lots o’ work.  But at least now I know where and why. 
  3. That I have major plot holes.  Of course I do.  It was a rough draft.  But this time, I can actually see them laid out in my critique.  I know where I have to spend my time.

WHAT I WON’T DO?

  1. Read it again for quite some time.  I will find my plot holes and fill them in.  I will plump up my characters and tweak timelines. 
  2. Line edit until after another front to back read through.  I will ignore the typos and grammar issues that I typically focus on and once again read for content, not copy.

All in all, this entire novel was a unique experience for me.  While I wrote my first draft, I simply made notes when I got stuck and moved on.  I never reread anything from the day before and simply started with the previous sentence.  I certainly did not edit as I went–which I’ve been known to do so often it inhibits my ability to finish a manuscript.

My shout out is not so much that I actually critiqued my novel, or that I believe it has market potential.  Rather, I’m thrilled to learn that I have, indeed, learned.

I’ve matured as a writer–both in how I write and how I edit.  And that is something worth shouting about!

Can you tell when you’ve grown as a writer?  If so, what did you do differently and how does it affect your approach to your writing journey?

Growing minds want to know!

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14 responses to “Shout Out on a WIP Read-Through

  1. I too wrote a Nano09 novel and re-read it recently, I found the same as you, it wasn’t nowhere near as bad as I thought it was going to be, it just needs to be expanded in some bits but other than that, it was pretty good. My characters are usually quite good where I struggle is in descrptions, I HATE having to describe things, so I tend not to do so.

    One way I’ve changed my writing is that I am now being very organised and I’m starting with an outline. I need some kind of structure or if not, I end up with a huge mess.

    Good luck with your Nano novel, I’m sure you’ll polish it to your liking 🙂

    • Agatha, I sympathize. I’m not a big describer either and always have to go back and fluff up my manuscripts with a bit of flowery prose!

      I’ve never outlined before, but when I’ve tried, I find the magic is gone and I can’t get into my writing. I wish it were the other way around, but…well, there you have it!

  2. Great post Cate! Eventually I need to go back and re-work Lane & Finn (my MG NaNo novel) and begin re-submitting with it. I like being in YA like I am now though. 🙂
    Lisa ~ YA Literature Lover

    • Lisa,

      Sometimes it’s fun to let things sit a bit. They’re like a fine wine. They get better with age. Or is that cheese?

      Nope, too moldy. Hmmm. Anyways, time is a good thing, I think, when it comes to editing.

      Best luck on L&F!

  3. I am determined to try NaNoWriMo this year. I’ve heard so many writers say it’s just the jump start they need to establish a little writing discipline, and the results are often amazingly good.

    Congratulations, Cat, on discovering your novel was definitely worth the time and effort. That must feel great.

    • Patricia,

      It is a blast. I love it and get so much accomplished, though I was shocked to discover that my last NaNo was not a total waste of words. I hope I can polish it up and make something of it.

      If you decide to NaNo, let me know. It’s always easier with support!

  4. I’m still working with my NaNo novel. I need to dive in again based on some great suggestions I received. I think eventually it’ll be where I want it to be 🙂

    I thought your story line was so intriguing at the time – I’m glad you feel it’s worth diving into!

    • Thanks, Jemi.

      It was intriguing this time around, which surprised and delighted me. Someday it may be fit for human consumption!

      Best luck on finishing yours up. Editing can take some time, but you have some good critters to help you out.

  5. I’m afraid of NaNo, I have so little writing time as it is, I think that NaNo would finish me off. It would be great to have the discipline to pound out x number of words per day, but that’s just not me. I admire those who can do it, though!

    P.S. If that’s the new haircut in your profile photo, it looks great! 🙂

    • Layinda,

      I was afraid of NaNo too, but thrilled with the idea. I tried it once, loved it and have never looked back. I’ll be doing my fifth year!

      PSS. No new cut, but thanks for the compliment.

  6. I recently did the same thing, but with a WIP I started for NaNo 08 and finished in 09, before the next NaNo. It had been sitting around waiting for me to do a complete readthrough – took me nearly a year to do it! I was convinced it wouldn’t read well, because it was my “practice novel”, the one I used to show myself I could write a full-length novel.

    There are holes galore, but things do work in it, and just the first readthrough gave me tons of ideas. Looks like we’ll be working on the editing process together!

    • Sounds great, Belle. I couldn’t think of a better “partner” to edit my NaNoNovel with!

      Best luck as you shovel tar into those holes. I’m sure we can get a deal if we share the cost of delivery!

  7. I could tell I’d grown when I could plow through parts of the book that I didn’t feel like writing at the moment and write them anyway. No more summaries like, and so they talked for a while, and she decided she was better off. Bleh. I knew I’d grown up a little when I could give that scene as much attention as I could give a fight scene.

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