I Edited Half My YA Novel During NaNoWriMo—and a Surprise Led Me to Alter My Goal

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Some people assume this flirtatious vampire is the main character of
my novel-in-progress. She’s actually the antagonist… Or is she?

I dedicated this past November to editing about half of the young adult vampire novel I finished drafting during NaNoWriMo Camp in April. On November 30, I was surprised with a chance to enter an excerpt of the book in a contest.

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in its most traditional form is held in November, and this was my first time to participate in that month. The website automatically sets each project goal at 50,000 words, with the general assumption that participants are writing fresh novels. Preparation in the way of outlines, notes, and research ahead of November are permitted, but traditional NaNo writers begin the actual manuscript in November. I’ve never managed to hold back on a book until a set time and then write so much fresh. My creative process forms books slowly, and writing actual scenes is part of their formation. So I was a “rebel,” editing instead of writing.

I estimated my word count by dividing the number of words in each section I went over by 2. Other writers I heard from late in the month consider each hour of editing as 1,000 words, which I learned even later is the standard NaNoWriMo suggests during its “camps.” For the most part, I stuck with my original system for consistency.

My plan was to edit the first 18 chapters, first on paper, and then on the computer. But because I did the hand edits when traveling and I had some places to go, on November 29 I only had 1 through 14 edited on my PC. I have hand edits through Chapter 17. My plan to complete as many as I could of those middle chapters was interrupted by a message in my email from a publisher announcing that day as the due date for a novel excerpt contest I hadn’t known about before. I decided to enter, and the part of the novel that I though best for it is toward the end of my manuscript. Like Cinderella, I had until midnight to dress up my sample and wow the prince—er, judge.

I won’t name the publisher yet because the manuscript needs to be anonymous to them, but when the results are in, I’ll post about it.

My book is first in a series called AVS: The Anti-Vampirism Society. The first draft of book 1 was a little over 100,000 words. That’s within the acceptable range for either a YA novel or a novel for adults. My edit is shrinking that total by eliminating unnecessary words and phrases from chapters written as early as 2018. That reduction works out in spite of my adding character description. It just goes to show that writing can always be improved upon; practice makes better; perfect is a term that doesn’t make sense in the field.

Some chapters need more work than others. My critique group recommends major overhauls for some. The newest chapters haven’t been critiqued by anyone yet. I’m still basking in the joys of having a complete draft and looking forward to its future beta readers. Beta readers are ideally within the demographic of a typical reader of a story, and they read the whole book and give reactions and suggestions to the author. If you are interested in being a beta reader, write and tell me about yourself and your interest. I am especially looking for readers aged 13 through 16. Girls will probably be more interested than boys because my protagonist and main viewpoint character is female, but the other viewpoint character is male, and so was my first beta reader. He liked the book but suggested I add a new beginning describing the relationship between my main character and her boyfriend before things go awry. I added that new beginning and found the book works better that way for a number of reasons. It led to fixing some other weaknesses.

I remember hearing years ago from book editors and agents that “vampires are dead.” Well, of course they’re dead—or undead. But coming from these publishing professionals, the statement was even more ominous. They meant that since the popularity of Twilight, the market was glutted. If you want to try the subject at all, they said, it better be an original slant.

I think my series is an original slant. This novel is the ultimate love your enemy story. My protagonist finds herself needing to help her worst enemy in order to save the boy she loves. You can read more about the series, including interviews of five vampires, in my blog dedicated to the series, Robin Layne, Author: Welcome to the AVS.

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