NaNo Hangover: What to do between your first draft and second (Episode 2)

At the moment, I’m actually doing my final Ruins of Noe rewrite for my editor and can’t start rewriting my NaNo until my homework is done. Boo hoo. New projects are always more fun.

The below may seem obvious to some of you, but perhaps there’s someone else out there going through their very first rewrite  and feeling overwhelmed. If you are a more experienced / published writer, be sure to add your 2 cents about how you approach your rewrite.

First of all, rewrites are overwhelming. For all of us. You’re not alone. And you can do this.

So, the rewrite . . . First, print out your entire manuscript. If you have an aversion to paper waste, use recycled, scratch, or scratch recycled paper. All my paper gets used twice (and then recycled). I don’t like waste either.

Put it in a binder and then give it a big hug. I’m serious. Don’t skip this step just because it sounds too silly for the likes of you. It feels really good to have a physical manifestation of all your hard work. Yay.

Read the entire manuscript with pen in hand and in the shortest amount of time possible so you can stay in the flow of the story.

This was tough for me this week as I was working long days and on set. But having a print copy in a binder meant I could take it everywhere. I read/marked this sucker while I was on public transit (that’s how I commute most of the time), during my lunch breaks, and when I got home each evening.

Don’t worry so much about spelling, grammar, punctuation, or even word choice. Sure, if you see an obvious mistake, circle it and move on. But, trust me, you’ll be rewriting this thing four, five, six or more times and that run-on sentence you wanted to fix will probably magically disappear along the way. If not, it will get fixed in your final copy edit. Focusing on the little details (what we call “polishing your buttons”) is not helpful at this point.

Think big picture. Which is why you want to read it as quickly as possible to see if it all holds together.

How do I mark it as I read? Generally, I ask myself a lot of questions in the margins: what is this character’s motivation? does this match something I said earlier? do I need to reveal more here? etc. I also mark places where I need to expand something – more info, description, detail, etc.

When an idea bounces into my mind, I immediately write it down on the opposite page. OR, if my scratch paper doesn’t allow room, I keep lined paper in the back for chronological notes/ideas.

Other things you can ask yourself while you read:

  • Does my protagonist have a character arc? Does it grow naturally over the course of the story? Is it believable?
  • Is my protagonist an “active hero in conflict” (meaning, does she solve her own problems or does someone or some coincidence solve them for her)
  • Is there a clear dilemma?
  • Have I put obstacles in my protagonist’s way of achieving his goal?
  • Do my other characters sound flat / one-dimensional? Are they “too good” or “too evil”?
  • Does the story keep moving? Is it bogged down anywhere?
  • Are all my plot set ups paid off? Are any subplots left dangling? (If this is a series, some things may be left dangling, but you want the story to satisfy)

Please feel free to add suggestions for the things you look for in your rewrites!


  1. Deb Marshall
    Dec 10, 2011

    As always, Danika….thank you!

    I like the hugging part. Works for me!

  2. I like the hugging part, too. I just did it again, lol. Writing is so abstract now that most people do it into their computers. Having that physicality is satisfying.

    Is this your first novel?

  3. KLY
    Dec 10, 2011

    It just so happens I’m in the middle of my first ever rewrite so this could not be more timely for me. I’m all but scrapping the entire second half (with only a few scenes remaining) so I feel more than a little overwhelmed. Once this rewrite is done I’ll be toting around a binder as well.

    Thank you!

  4. @KLY, congrats on finishing your first. I’d like to tell you that it gets easier, but, no, it doesn’t. lol. But you will build confidence as you go, your writing will improve, and you feel a tremendous amount of satisfaction with each little thing you make work.

  5. Coreena
    Dec 12, 2011

    Thanks for this, great advice!!! I especially love the hugging part. We don’t often give ourselves enough credit, especially for work that isn’t perfect yet.

  6. @Coreena – it’s never perfect. Yes, we must appreciate it at every stage.

  7. aneducationinbooks
    Dec 13, 2011

    This is great information. What’s next?

  8. You’ll soon find out! (most likely self-criticism – lol)

  9. meeshelleneal
    Dec 15, 2011

    I never thought of physically hugging my work before and I LOVE IT!! Also, this post is great! I’ve starred it in my e-mail account so I can go back and follow the steps when my next script gets there, thank you 🙂

  10. Hi Meesh – yes, this works just as well for screenplays. I use the same process for both. The only difference is less words to read.


  1. NaNo Hangover Episode 3 | The Accidental Novelist (Writes Again) - [...] so you’ve printed your newborn, placed it in a lovely binder, hugged it, read it through (completely) with magic…

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