You may be aware that November is National Novel Writing Month (there’s also Camp NaNoWriMo for those who shy away from November and/or a ‘required’ word count goal). You may also be aware that the Writers’ Program offers a NaNoWriMo course – look for it in the Fall 2017 quarter!

So, why am I talking about a November course in March? Because March just happens to be National Novel Editing Month, or NaNoEdMo.

NaNoEdMo was created as a time to edit drafts created during the frenzy of a WriMo month (or whenever) – let a piece rest for a bit, get some distance, and then dedicate to editing for at least fifty hours during March. There’s more info and FAQs on the NaNoEdMo site, but that’s the basic idea. Though, much like Camp, EdMo uses the Novel moniker to cover any piece of fiction. Screenplay/Teleplay? Short Story collection? Behemoth book series? You’re covered under the blanket ‘novel’ term.

Editing, like writing, is usually a solitary act. NaNoEdMo adds a community option similar to its writing counterpart to make the process (hopefully) a little less panic inducing and crazy making. Whether you officially participate or not, March is as good a month as any to pull out a drafted-yet-unfinished work, a pile of red pens (and/or notating apps) and get revising. Participating this month or not, engaging with others during the editing process is a crucial part of a work’s development. Here’s why:

It gets you out of your own head. You’re not working alone. This can help you be less precious and find errors more easily – with words, characters, plot lines, description, overall tone/voice, etc.

If you make someone else care about what you’ve written, you’re headed in the right direction. And if they don’t care, you can ask them to articulate why – that can help expose potential flaws in the writing.

It makes you accountable to someone for making progress. While you’re working, so are they, and having that balance of effort can help motivate you in ways your own internal voices cannot.

You can also try changing up your method of revising. NaNoEdMo requires you to input hours (at least) weekly. However, there’s no stipulation with regard to how those hours are spent, and no word count validator. It’s honor-system all the way. Which, unless you’re a professional editor billing hourly, is pretty much how editing goes anyway – no one knows how much work you’ve done, or the time spent doing it, they just see the results.

Been doing everything on a computer? Print off pages to edit by hand.
Have a section you don’t like? Try rewriting it by hand, or dictating it on your phone.
Character giving you trouble? Take a bit of time to write more of their story – see what their issues are and how they might be resolved (or deepened, depending on their arc).
Plot holes? Make notes on what’s needed to fill them, and work on each one separately, as its own contained little story, then work it back into the piece as a whole.
Setting or character issues? Try drawing some scenes out – even if you’re terrible at drawing, just try it as an exercise. Or make an idea board, using a collage/presentation program or with magazine/photo clippings.

credit: hogwarts chronles

These are ways of trying to get your mind to find ways of working on the project without following the same editing patterns you’ve had before. A sort of ‘work outside the box’ method.

In the end, you’re the best judge of you and how you work, but stepping out of your routine, whether though joining a community with a challenge for the month, connecting with trusted friends/colleagues for feedback, or holing yourself up for a few dedicated days of work can lead to huge, progressive strides for your project.

(This post is not sponsored by NaNoEdMo or NaNoWriMo. I just think they’re great tools, even as simply jumping off points to motivate one to get [back] to work.)


Bree is the Assistant to the Director and Social Media Coordinator. You can email her at btodish@uclaextension.edu.