A Public Service Announcement Regarding Your Novel

The Evil Order Of Wizarding Has Its Keynote Speaker

So, you’re writing a novel.

Maybe you were doing that thing — what was it called? NaNoWuzza? HandoWringo? NeMoWizardpants? Remo Williams? I don’t know. Don’t ask me. I don’t know rabbit shit from raisin bran.

I’d like to say congratulations to you. Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hold up. Don’t come over here to shake my hand. Put your greasy palm back at your side. I didn’t say I was congratulating you. I said I’d like to.

As in, “Gosh, I sure wish I could congratulate this budding novelmonkey, but my good sense and unswerving ethical code prevents me from doing so as this juncture.”

I have, well…

*deep breath*

I have bad news.

Where are you at in this novel of yours?

Did you reach 50k?

Maybe you only reached 30k.

Could be that you rocked out with your, ahem — *gesticulates with index finger around crotchal region and keens a low whistle* — out and managed to finish 70k, or 90k, or 120k.

Ennnh. Nnnnngh. Yeah. Bad news.

What’s that? You want to hear the bad news? I dunno. I’m not sure you’re ready for it. Your ears, they look virginal. If I speak this news, I’m afraid the words would form a searing hot stick-pin, and that pin would thrust into your tender ear and lance your eardrum as if it were a plague bubo pus balloon. (“Plague Bubo Pus Balloon” was my nickname in in the Shanghai Triads. But you didn’t hear it from me.)

All right, all right, settle down.

Here’s the bad news:

You’re not done.

No, really. You’re totally not done. That novel? Incomplete. “Buh, buh, buh!” you say, and as a response, I thwack you in the bridge of your nose with a broomstick. Stop stammering. You heard me. The novel you are or were working on is not complete. Even if you think, “Gosh, it’s complete,” nope. Not complete.

A quick sidenote –

If you’re a NaNoWriMo participant, let’s be clear about something: the month of November (which marches toward its end) is just your training wheels. Maybe you hit your mark, maybe you didn’t. If you did? Great. You nailed the deadline on a wholly artificial construct (and 50k does not a novel make). If you didn’t? Who cares? You did not nail the deadline on a wholly artificial construct. Either way, time to pedal faster and blow those goddamn training wheels off your bike so hard, they catch fire and strike that irritating neighbor child (the one who keeps peeing in your sandbox) right in his freckled little asshole face.

Because here’s the scoop:

November may be ending. Your work on that novel is not.

All you’ve managed to do so far is sculpt feces into a recognizable shape. Yes, yes, that’s very exciting and all — oh! It looks like a gazelle. But it still smells like shit.

What I’m saying to you is, it is time to begin…


The editing process.

Writing is rewriting. Say it with me: “Writing is rewriting.” Now tattoo it on your forehead backward so you can read it every time you look into the mirror.

Sure, sure, I know, some writers don’t do second drafts. Those writers are either:

a) Totally gifted


b) Total assholes.

Let’s presume you (like me!) are not totally gifted, and that you (er, not always like me) are not a total asshole. That means it’s time to edit. And rewrite. And edit. And rewrite. The film script I’m working on with my writing partner, Lance, is just about up to its ninth draft. My novel is up to its sixth draft. In both cases, neither looks at all like they did when I first began them.

Your response to this might be despair. It might be panic. It might be pants-shitting fear.

Fuck all that. This is awesome news. Before, when I said it was bad news? I was lying. Testing you. And you failed the test because I can see the lost and hopeless look in your eye. No, really, this is great news. You know why? Because that mound of goblin snot in front of you — the one you’re currently referring to as “my novel” — doesn’t have to remain as a quivering pile of goblin snot. A novel, unlike life, affords us nigh-infinite chances to get it right. Imagine if you could marry a person, go through the marriage, get to the end, look back and say, “Gosh, I sort of fucked that all up,” and then go back and edit all the bad parts out. You could go back and extricate all the arguments, all the miscommunication, all the errors. That, however, isn’t allowed. Not in a marriage. Not in most parts of your life.

But your novel?


With the novel, you are afforded just such a luxury.

So, strap on your miner’s hat. Sharpen your scalpels. Draw a draught of blood for purposes of redlining. Starve your wombats. It’s time, my squirmy little fuckers, to get down to some editing.

In November I spent a good portion of the month blubbering on about writing a novel. I plan on spending December prattling on about editing — and rewriting — your novel.

Class begins on Wednesday. If you have specific questions about editing, hey, pitch them at my face the way you would a fastball. Otherwise, buckle up, suck it up, and let’s do some motherfucking editing.


    • @Kate:

      Actually, I am (and I’ll be talking about that) — I don’t necessarily advocate running right out and jumping into the edit, though surely that works for some (and in terms of freelancing, it’s often a necessity). This month isn’t so much about editing the novel right after NaNoWriMo, but just about editing in general. Seems a good thematic punch.

      — c.

  • But, but…I haven’t finished yet. I probably won’t be finished until late December. And when I do, it’s time to edit the novel I put aside to marinate while I did NaNo. And, and, and…

    All right, you know what? Fuck it. Fine. I’ll take notes. *grumble grumble not the boss of me piss moan*

  • One of the hardest things for me to learn was not to edit before I was done writing. I’d read it and think “Man this is absolute shit” & I would stop writing. With the project I am currently working on I have avoided this mistake, I am writing It to it’s bitter end and then I will edit the hell out of it. My 15 year old has started writing & I keep warning him don’t edit until it’s done, but like a typical teenager he knows better than me.

  • I am three chapters away from finishing my first draft. I’m going to set it aside for a month while I work on a few short pieces, and I hope to start editing Jan 1. I’m looking forward to reading your thoughts on the editing process. One of my main questions is when I should begin sending drafts to a critique partner…you know, once I find one, that is.

  • Your doing editing? Yay! I’ve been looking for some advice on rewriting and stuff, but no one tells it like you do :) Your writing blogs helped me so much!
    Your the best! I’ll keep stalking your blog everyday for like ever<3

  • Yes, quivering pile is here, and now locked away for a fermenting period. Hopefully, it will revise itself, but if not, I’m looking forward to reading your take on edits.

    Oh, and I think it’s called NaNoBlowMe.

  • Ha ha ha ha. Boy are you sooo right. I always joke that my first novel was being used in Guantanamo Bay to break terrorists. I’ll tell you where the bomb is, just not another chapter of that boooook! Waterboard me, please!”

    I finished my NaNoWriMo. Couldn’t have done it without you. Every time I thought about slacking, all I could hear was, “Writing is not a parade of peppermint puppies.” I am thinking on having that made into a plaque to hang above my desk. Along with, “It writes the words or it gets the hose.”

    November is National Novel Writing Month, but December naturally should be National Novel Editing Month because of the copious amounts of alcohol and sugar naturally consumed during December. It’s a perfect fit.

    Thanks for another awesome blog! Off to work on my primordial slime, :D.

  • Talk about editing. I wrote the first novel in 5 days. Spent a year editing it. Then was told by an agent that I needed to re-write in third person, as first person would not sale.

    So, this is year two in the re-write, mostly from procrastination.

    Editing time is all the time.

  • I just won NaNoWriMo for the first time. Nobody, not my mother, not my fiancee, let alone an agent, is going to lay eyes on this festering pile of crap until at LEAST the third draft. What kind of foaming at the mouth moron actually thinks a Nanowrimo novel is good enough to sell un-edited? I’m seriously glad you were here to state the obvious.

  • Ahh, what an elegant way to describe the vicious never ending cycle of writing a novel. (FYI on third draft of mine with no end in sight and a hope that maybe one day I’ll have a book in my hand)

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