Okay, so #NaNoWriMo is over. What happens now?

Editing, of course!

But before that, you should let your brain and heart rest for some time. Not just because you deserve it after pushing your late night limits for thirty days straight, but because your story does. First (and second and third) drafts need to be revisited with fresh eyes, and the best way to do that is by looking away for a while. Write something else, or just go to sleep. When you wake up again, we’ve got your editing effort covered with these five handy tips.

1. Read it aloud

Apart from the fact that reading aloud will help you spot typos, it also helps you feel the rythm of the story. A beat that pumps through dialogue and descriptions, that makes it flow. If you read your story aloud, you’ll start hearing its beat. Does it sound good? Do you get bored?

2. Show vs tell

This must be the most over-used advice of them all, but it deserves mentioning nonetheless. Sometimes, telling is necessary, so don’t go all in on this one, but “She used to day-dream of smashing his brains out with a baseball bat” is both more figurative and impactful than “She hated his guts,” if you see what I mean.

3. Active vs passive voice

This one is subject to debate, and as with everything, you shouldn’t follow it blindly. However, passive voice (“The car was stolen by Jess”) is clunkier than active voice (“Jess stole the car”), and hence slows down the story. It risks killing your beat, so use it wisely if you do.

4. Said vs everything else

Consider this:

“How bad was it?” Arnot wondered.

“Bad,” Isle complained. “I am hurt,” she said.

Then consider this:

“How bad was it?” Arnot whispered.

“Bad,” Ilse said. “I am hurt.”

See what I did there? I didn’t go all said, as you thought I would! The key point here is not to go all in on said or something else, but to use the right word at the right time. I killed complained and wondered because they aren’t ways of saying things, they just repeat the obvious. I replaced Arnot’s wondered with whispered because it adds to the scene.

Ilse’s complained could also be replaced with something more nuanced, but then again, you want to avoid breaking the beat. And said is one of the most neutral words out there. Readers don’t even notice it. Unless you keep repeating that, too, of course – that’s why I removed that last said 😉

5. Stop!

Every text can be edited into oblivion. Many have already been. Don’t make yours one of them – stop revising after a couple of rounds. Then publish, or do whatever you want to do with it, and move on to your next text. Because that’s how you improve.

Happy writing (and editing),

Jonas

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