I’ve been wracking my brain on how to do the demos for How To Revise Your Novel, and I finally realized that what I need is real novels to revise. But not my novels—I’m not a beginner, and most of the 100+ major revision problem that I’ve now identified from your questions, I no longer have in any form. I used to have them, but my first (unpublished) novel no longer exists for me to use as an example.
What I need are four FIRST novels.
ADDED SEPT. 8 —
In fact, sanity has prevailed. I’m going to work with TWO writers. I’ve now set up a private chat where I can discuss things with each, and a private web board for each. These two writers will work with me directly—I’ll show them the techniques, I’ll do my own assessment of their novel, but they’ll do the revisions themselves. (I will still do sample revisions of their work for the course. Aside from this, what is below remains the same.)
Which means there’s going to be a opportunity for you. But it comes with some caveats, so you need to think hard about this before you jump, okay?
I’m going to need four beta testers and their first novels.
- I need one NaNoWriMo first novelist who HAD NOT taken any of my courses before writing the novel.
I need one novelist whose first novel is the first book in a planned trilogy.
I need one novelist whose first novel is based around a single hero the writer hopes will be continued in future novels.
And I need one novelist who did MASSIVE planning before and during writing of his or her first novel.
- NEW And I need one novelist whose novel is NOT a NaNo novel.
More importantly, I need these to be novels that broke your heart.
I’m specifically looking for first novels you eventually gave up on because you could not fix them and did not know what to do with them. If you’ve written other novels since then, so much the better. (It isn’t a requirement, though.)
What I’m going to do through the course is plan out how I would revise each of these four novels, and then include marked-up and commented scenes from each as class demonstrations.
- The example scenes I use will be used anonymously.
- If you request, I will change all character and place names in the examples.
- I will require world rights to publish unedited excerpts of your first draft, and then my revision examples of those edits, in the private space of the classroom without owing you a royalty on them. These Technique Demos will not be included in any parts of the course I may decide to offer publicly.
- When the course is done, I’ll send you the hardcopy of your marked-up manuscript and my comment sheets and filled-out forms. (I will NOT be completing all forms for all manuscripts, so you’ll have a fair amount of work to do on the book if you decide to save it, but I will do the complete read-through, manuscript mark-up, and comments. Along with the forms, I do complete for your project, this will give you one HUGE head start on doing the revision.)
- This is NOT a FREE opportunity. I know what my time and experience are worth, and offering four or more months of my undivided attention to four students and their manuscripts, I could sell the beta version of the course for several thousand dollars per student. I’m not going to do that. My requirement that you let me use excerpts of your novel for teaching purposes to include permanently in the course is part of the trade-off in keeping the price down.
- I’ve not yet decided what I’ll charge the beta students. I want to keep it reasonable. My idea of reasonable may vary from yours, so if you want to have a horse in this race, (or a manuscript in the beta program, for the more literal-minded of you) please feel free to make suggestions below. This version of the course will cost more than what regular students will pay—but four of you will be getting several months of my best efforts in showing you how to fix your manuscripts in exchange.
- Unlike later students, you will have to commit to being on the boards, to asking and answering questions about the lessons, to answering questions I may have about your manuscript—and to not dropping out. I have to know that you’ll hang with me through the full revision, taking the course as I post the lessons. I need four people who are absolutely dedicated to this.
- You’ll go through first, starting probably a month ahead of the official course opening. You and the other three students I choose for this will have your own private board where you can talk with each other and with me. This preserves your anonymity and the anonymity of your work. You’ll retain all pub rights to the book, by the way. If you take my suggestions and revise the book along the lines I figure out, and you sell it, I’ll cheer like a loon. And you don’t owe me a dime or a credit.
- You need to have a thick skin. PLEASE believe this. If you’ve seen what I do with my own books, you MUST realize that I am not going to be gentle with yours. I’m not going to be mean. I’m not going to insult you. But you have to acknowledge that the book you’ve offered for my dissection is not your best work, or the best work you’re now capable of, and you have to be sincerely eager to understand how to fix it. If you’re in love with your words, this process will beat hell out of your ego. Don’t apply.
- Finally, if you’re not a native English speaker, you must must write English fluently, and the manuscript must be written in English.
So that’s you. What about the book?
I have specific things I’m looking for here.
- Frankly, I’m looking for shorter works. Anything over sixty thousand words and under a hundred thousand. (For the NaNo novel, 50K will be just fine.)
- You must be telling a story. If you ended up muddy about what the story was, no problem. If you know it’s not a very good story, no problem. But when you started writing the book, you have to have intended to make a story out of what you were writing.
- Your story MUST have an ending. That is, you have to have completed the first draft of the manuscript, and you can not have ended the book with a cliffhanger. If you hate the ending, no problem. That’s fixable.
- What I’m eliminating here are all “experimental” books. No metafiction, no deconstruction, and absolutely no collections of vignettes (little slices of life that you never intended to tie together.)
- Your spelling must be somewhere between acceptable and impeccable. This is not a course about spelling, and massively misspelled prose makes trying to find the bigger problems the book has—plot, structure, characterization, style, etcetera—impossible.
You cannot see big problems while you’re trying to decode a sentence of scrambled words into something with meaning. Unscrambling is a left-brain problem, and it will override the much more delicate and much more important right-brain processes of looking for and finding patterns of structural and content error.
Finally, you have to apply, and I’m not ready to take applications yet.
I have a signup form below—it’s to the same priority signup list on How To Revise Your Novel, so if you already signed up there, you don’t need to sign up again. If you’re not sure, go ahead and add your name and e-mail address—if you already signed up, the software will just let you know you’re on the list.
When I’m ready to start taking applications, which I’ll do about the time I’m ready to start writing lessons, I’ll send an e-mail to this list, and ONLY this list. The email will tell you first how much the “four students only” version of the course will cost—that way, if it’s outside your budget, you won’t waste your time filling out the application.
The application will ask you about the book, about the problems you know it has, and about what specific issues made you give up on it. I’ll also ask you what genre the book is, how many words in the existing draft, and for a very brief summary of your story—or at least of the story you wanted to tell before the first draft got in the way. I’ll also ask about how much time you have available, what hours you’re most likely to be on the private beta board, and what your writing experience has been since writing the book you wish to submit. And I’ll want to know about your motivation—WHY you want to do this, and WHY you aren’t going to quit.
YOU WILL NOT BE ASKED YOUR NAME. I want this to be a blind submission process, so when you get ready to submit, please get either a Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo or other anonymous mailing address and come up with some creative alias that you don’t use on message boards or anywhere else. Numbers are fine. Number-letter scrambles are fine. While I’m selecting applications, though, you and I need to know that the process is objective, and not based on prior knowledge of your work.
(Just use your regular e-mail address to sign up for the notification list. You’ll only need the anonymous address for the first and second stage of the submission process.)
Once I close the applications, I’ll go over them, I will then privately notify promising candidates—more than can actually take the course, because then I need to see a sample of your manuscript. I’ll ask for the first three chapters or first sixty pages. Your manuscript will have to have your anonymous e-mail address in the header and on the title page, not your name. You can do this in about 5 seconds if you select you as a candidate, so don’t worry about doing it now.
If I choose your application, I’ll include a release for you to sign which will allow me to use excerpts of your work in the course. You’ll send me a copy of your manuscript, and a week or two after that I’ll send you the secret sign-up code to the course, you’ll start your subscription (with PayPal), all five of us will introduce ourselves, and we’ll get to work.
If you’re interested, include your first name and an e-mail address that you check regularly below.
And you’re welcome to comment on this, of course, ask questions, whatever.
I think that you could charge about the same price as a University seminar course of the same length. You could do your own research as to what the average is, but I think about $300.00 – $400.00 a month.
I suggest that you try to register the course (by the way, I have no clue how you would go about it – I live in Canada) to be eligible for educational tax-exempt status. You could get more money for it, but not at the expense of the students. Again, this is just a suggestion. Not sure if it’s possible, feasible or even worth it in The States. In Canada, though, courses like this can be tax-exempt.
Is there a limit to how much revision has already been attempted on the draft? Or do you want the true, untouched first draft with no revision at all? I had already attempted to edit my first completed NaNovel, and realized in that process that it was broken and I didn’t know how to fix it. Unfortunately, without the edits I’d already attempted it’s too long to fit your parameters.
Have NaNo novel, very interested.
I’m interested in the Novel Revision course. (Don’t know the price range for the two student levels.) I have the time. 85k draft (Futuristic SF/Fantasy) finished and I continue to revise. I plan five stand-alone novels, with this the first. I don’t have a thick skin, but I want to step out of my comfort zone and move forward with this project.
I’m holding my breath to hear your replies to the publishing and royalty questions above. Will you expect royalties to our book? Just curious — after all this work, I don’t want to give it away.
Holly, by the comments above, you’re gonna have a hell of a time figuring out which novel to use 🙂
Can’t wait for the application process 🙂
I’ve written and completed a five novel series (or one very long novel), each of which comes close to your requirements. Just recently I had an idea that will help me to rework the plot of my novel. I’d like to rewrite and prepare my manuscript(s) for publication, possibly as an ebook series. I’d have no problem sharing my work and foibles as part of the learning process, because my heart’s desire is to become a better writer. So please consider me as candidate for this process. It may be the only opportunity I have to develop a novel that could be published. Thanks.
Would it be okay if it’s a novel we published on lulu.com (and that we retain all the rights to), but we know could be vastly improved?
Ahh dang… My first NaNo novel is almost right to specifications except it ends with a cliffhanger 🙁
But as much as I’d like to participate in this, I don’t think I have enough time or money as I’m a poor college student now. Oh well, I’ll keep my ears pricked for when the course does come out.
Mine’s a perfect candidate. I have come to hate the thing, and all revision efforts have failed. What’s worse, everyone hates something different about the manuscript, so I can’t even get a steady idea of what needs fixing.
The agents question is a good one, though. Could we take the submitted novels and make something of them? Are the quoted excerpts going to be short/different enough? Or do we need to make sure the novel we offer is “disposable,” that is, a novel we truly don’t want to go any farther with?
I have never wrote a novel before, but last year I had one of those moments when my mind drifted out to space somewhere, and this idea for a story suddenly popped into my head. For ages afterwards, character’s started talking to me, so in the end, I got a note book and started to write down what they said to me. It took me a year to write it, but I am a very self-motivated, self-diciplined type of person anyway. I absolutely loved writing this story, and I know deep down it has a few problems, which I haven’t fixed yet. But I love the story, and still believe in it, so this would be a wonderful opportunity for me. The story has about 63,000 words. Hope I’m lucky.
My novel is completed, it’s my first, and my problem is the ending. I like the rest of it very much and would have already started submitting to agents if i could come up with a more satisfying ending. If I enter the class and you pick me, will I still be able to submit it to agents?
Actually I’m kind of curious about this myself. Do you think publishers would be reluctant to publish a book that had (in a way) been published already?
Wow… I wish I could do this. I even have a story that fits- a NaNovel at about 50k that I gave up on after an attempt at editing. The first in a series.
Trouble is, I’ve written a lot since then, and improved so much that editing that thing couldn’t help me… or anyone else, probably. The stories I write now I haven’t given up on.
I would like to be considered for the novel revision.
I forgot. I have never done NaNoWriMo. My novel is in the 65,000/70,000 range. I would consider it a YA paranormal. I love the characters, like the story premise, the ending is weak.
This is really cool. I look forward to this. My first novel is/was a complete mess. My wife only lasted 20 pages before giving up. LOL!
Sounds like I have the perfect book for this project. The current incarnation of my first NaNovel from 2001, it’s just over 60,000 words of pure paraNOIRmal anarchy, with entirely too many supernatural beings dashing about in entirely too many directions until all those divergent roads wind through a fair-to-middlin’ plot until they coalesce into what actually isn’t too awful an ending. In fact , I think the last line is pretty durn clever. It’s the meandering mess that comes before that makes it so hopeless that I felt obliged to spend the last few years working on a prequel, hoping to untangle the Gordian knot I’d created before its actual genesis. Regardless, my aim was to build a straightforward narrative out of unusual materials, but there’s nothing experimental about it. In fact, it’s rather retrograde in style, if not in substance.
As for your other requirements, when I took the GRE twenty-five years ago I only missed two questions on the vocabulary section, and I suspect those were open to interpretation and I just went the wrong direction. Ergo, I am fluent in English and when necessary and/or advisable am capable of spelling acurately. Having been married for twenty-eight years and having raised three female offspring, I am of necessity possessed of the thickest skin you may have ever encountered. I had my ego extracted along with my appendix years ago, so nothing you could say that might salvage the disaster I have cobbled together would offend.
I’m looking forward to the opportunity to offer it for potential surgery, with or without anaesthetic.
It’s a shame that you dropped the “first novel is the first book in a planned trilogy” qualifier. Although I never abandoned my book… I figured I won’t know how good a writer I am until I’ve written an ending, so I’ve got to complete the trilogy before I do anything with the story.
Haven’t dropped it. Have widened the categories. One NaNoWriMo novel, one Not A NaNoWriMo novel.
The categories can be anything.
I have something in the pre-Thinking Sideways Nano mode… I wrote it last year for NaNoWriMo and keep getting it out to edit it and then putting it down because I’ve learned so much from then and I’m not sure where to start. I guess actually reading the novel again would be a good idea. I don’t really remember too much about it but I do remember how it felt when I came up with the ending. God, that was great!
For me, for four months of review and being able to talk with you and get your personal input on my novel in exchange for you being able to use sections of my novel to create your course… I really don’t have enough money to pay you what I think this would be worth. I could do between $100 – $200 a month, but anything more will definitely be stretching it. My freelance career with Demand Studios is all I have to supply me with this extra money. I would be willing to pay more should I be able to come up with it!
A question for you, Holly. Let’s say that you do help us with our revision – would you want credit in the book if it were to be published? And not just an acknowledgement, but perhaps a royalty cut or something like that? Hell, for helping me, I’d probably be happy to do so.
Holly, this is your old blogger buddy from Florida. I just had my first novel published! That’s o.k., you can stop bowing now. I have something that I would love your take on, the first of a trilogy of very anthropomorphic novels for young adults as well as us old dudes too. My only problem is size, about 20k, way out of the stated quantity. Girl, have you lost a bunch of weight? Lookin’ good, I know your hubby is proud of you. Charles
I have something that fits the parameters–except for one thing.
I don’t know if I want to seriously work on that novel again.
I did and do think it was fine for a first effort, but the idea for the novel just wasn’t that great. The presentation was rambling and boring. I’m actually embarrassed of it now, I think. 😉
At the time, I was heartbroken I didn’t know how to fix that novel. But I moved on, created a new character, a new situation, and wrote a second book. Then I did it again. And again three more times after that.
On a selfish level, I fear Holly would go to a lot of trouble to point out problems that I can now see without help because that was such an early novel.
On the other hand, I *know* Holly would be able to point out things I never even thought of in addition to that “yeah, I know” stuff. On an unselfish note, someone besides me might learn a lot from it. And I bet I would, too, in the long run.
I’m signed up for the priority list, and I do want to take the course. I’ll give whether I want to revisit that novel more thought.
Ditto, Stormlyht. I’m currently revising my earliest novels.
Wow. This really hit home with me. I have already completed several novels since my first one. It is the one I tell everyone should stay where it is, in a box underneath really heavy books where it can not disturb anyone. I care deeply about this story. It was my first completed novel and has been waiting for over ten years for me to get over my fear (and embarassment) of it and attempt a ressurection. It’s not a NaNo novel (I’d never heard of NaNo until a few months ago and I don’t even know if NaNo was around ten + years ago) but it is a YA novel. I’d forgotten about it until I started unpacking from a recent move and found it. I’m going to sign up for the email list. Very interested to learn more about this. Thank you, Holly.
Wow, this sounds great. I would love to do it but I never got anything done before except for a Nanowrimo novel last year and that is so all over the place even I can’t make head or tail of it.
I took the story apart and developed about a third of it into a really cool idea but I battled to get it written. Then I found the Thinking Sideways course and when I’m done with it I thought I’ll give it another go.
While I am interested in all those things, I would also like to know what areas need to be fleshed out for better understanding—without slowing down the pace of my story. I am pretty happy with my first attempt overall, I know it needs work and is not ready to send out. I am paralyzed as to what I should do now. I would love straightforward, even blunt, intelligent advice for next steps!
My very first novel was for NaNo, and it’s the one I think would be amazing if I could only figure out how to edit it. I don’t know how you have all the other categories lined out but if you still need one for category 1 I have the original manuscript along with all my 573895743895743 edit attempts. LOL
I wish I’d seen this five years ago, before I set myself free of all my first novel attempts by running every extant copy through a shredder and purging the files. Very cathartic, helped me move on to a fresh and eventually more productive approach; but also left me with nothing to use for this. Bummer. Good luck to those who apply!
Wow. I’m all over this. I have one that would fit in category three that is a hot mess.
I have something that fits the parameters, the time and the determination. And depending on when this would start I might have the $. What I don’t have is a typed version of the manuscript because it was written 10 years ago and the floppy and computer it was on are long gone. I’d have to retype everything from the printed copy and 90-100K words would take too long I think.
Could you find a scanner and scan it in and then submit it as a PDF? I don’t see anything about the format that the file has to be in (text or some specific word processor) so that may be fine.
Wow, I would love to do this but I’ve got nothing that fits your parameters. However, your complete confidence in the revision process is such an inspiration for me to keep writing all the way to the (not quite right yet) end!
I still have my first NaNoWriMo novel. It broke my heart to give up on it but it’s such a mess. As for the payment aspect of this, I just don’t know how to judge how much it should cost. I hope that there is some way to make payments like there was for How to Think Sideways. I always feel you deserve more than I can immediately afford Holly.
*sigh* I really want to do this but I don’t have a finished manuscript that I’m not working on. I haven’t given up on it, not even vaguely. Ah well, maybe I can poke someone else I know into submitting, given that she HAS given up on hers.
Forgot to ask my other question: what’s your definition of MASSIVE planning? I did the snowflake method and had a summary of EVERY scene written…and let me tell you, it sucked; it made it so hard to finish because I knew exactly what was going to happen in every single minute of the dang thing.
I don’t think it helped the structure at all, either, actually, and probably the most interesting parts were the parts that snuck in there without me planning them.
I’m not Holly and I probably shouldn’t be giving advice in this thread… but… that’s never stopped me before. 🙂
I’m using something like the snowflake method (based on my experience as a programmer) combined with Holly’s process. The thing about planning each scene before you start is that you can’t let yourself be hogtied by it. When you write, it needs to be allowed to breathe. New scenes need to be able to create themselves because your muse is pointing you in a new direction and you need to be flexible with that. It may even invalidate things that happened before and were supposed to happen after but if you’ve got a good new path presenting itself, you’ve got to be able to pursue it if you feel it’s a better path than the one you’re on.
At least, that’s the way I look at outlines and planning and things. The actual planning isn’t bad. It’s a good thing. As long as you don’t give it too much power.
I’ve tried the Snowflake method, and it has killed every story by the end of chapter one, early chapter two. Still, I can’t write without a plan, so instead of writing an overview of each chapter, I write a list of objectives for the chapter, scenes in no particular order, and a series of questions. The objectives remain pretty concrete, but leaving the rest open has turned some chapters on their head. It was the only way I could finish my first book, because I know I can plan things to death with ease. I’m constantly fighting to keep things alive.
oh my gosh…I want to do this so bad. 🙂 My first novel qualifies in several categories. LOL. Should we have tried to revise it at all, or is it okay if it really is a FIRST draft that I didn’t work on at all after the first writing because it completely sucks and I don’t know what to do with it? Except that I like the idea of it and I would really love to do something with it, like publish it and create a series? 🙂
I thought I had one a that fell into the the NaNoWriMo first novelist grouping, but I haven’t given up on it I’ve gotten good feed back from a a couple of Agents the first it didn’t fit into one of thier lines the other took it and got sick. It’s aval if you need one. Today was 808 words a good day lots of progress.
I have a definite possibility. You said they will be anonymous, right? Mine’s from 2003 and is completed but an utter wreck. Tried to rewrite it the following year, but no dice. It’s patiently waiting for me to do something with it. I have a few ideas, but I could use more. 😉
I guess anything not written in English is absolutely out of the question, right? Ouch! Yes, I know it sounded stupid, but I read all twice and I have a manuscript that fits as a glove in the fourth category but in Spanish…
Nevermind, I’m grateful this course is getting shape so quickly and I’m ready to enroll.
Hopefully, my story is special but my mistakes are not 😀
Well, I’d love to send in my original first draft, pre-revision. But… I’ve got a couple of questions/issues. I’ve only got one novel where I’ve actually got a complete first draft.
1. I haven’t given up on it, yet. During my revision process, I realized that it was too wrecked the way it was and except for a few scenes (that still required major reworking), I’m totally rewriting the thing.
2. The final draft I have is kinduva patchwork quilt with a few scenes actually coming from a previous attempt at the story and the character’s names CHANGE in some scenes. That might be horribly difficult for someone to read and understand.
3. In those scenes, there are culture shifts as well.
4. I’d feel uncomfortable giving you some of this without even making some of the grammatical changes I’d marked. If I made those changes and at the same time, fixed the names, would that be okay? And maybe put some notes in? Or something? Or does it need to be in complete steaming pile stage?
I would love for you to take a look at it and tear it apart. I’m sure you’d take a totally different direction with the material than what I’ve decided to take.
That’s terribly tempting since I’m qualified for more than one category with an old project of mine (1st novel in a series finished around 10 years ago, and pretty wrecked), but alas it’s a behemoth novel (around 200k words)… and even if it were short, I write my fiction in Italian 🙂
That’s a real cool idea though, I can’t wait to see your take on revision of works by people that, supposedly, met problems pretty similar to mine! 🙂
This is so exciting! I’d be willing to throw my entire “writing and education” budget at this ($400).
I don’t think that I qualify, but I am going to check it out anyways. I am dedicated to finishing my first novel, whatever it takes!
Would a YA novel be acceptable? It was for NaNo and came in at 55k.
Actually, my first novel was not NaNo. It was also YA and came in at around 55k. Will this work?
That sounds so tempting, considering I am qualified in more than one category. O.O
However, I am not sure how I would feel about my book being helpfully redone for me. It’s like it won’t be my work anymore. I’ll never be able to be proud of it because without help it would have never gotten better.
I have gone through many re-writes before I realized the wisdom of “writing the first draft entirely before revising”, so I’ll be happy to provide bits of failed writing if you ever need some – and give them away freely and completely. What you are doing, motivating writers, helping us out of our failures, giving so much free advice is good enough trade-off.
Let me know if you ever need anything (I know, it’s not what you are looking for now) – I’ll be happy to be useful.
I’m not going to do the actual revision. I’m going to tear apart the manuscript. I’ll demo revision on short sections, but if you want to revise the book, you’ll have my detailed notes, which you can either use or ignore, and the sort of detailed breakdown I do for myself.
Holly, what is the “adult-content rating” you’re looking for (or away from)? I may be interested in participating, but the novels that I have broken contain explicit sexual material.
Oh La La! “raised eyebrow.
I tried to apply and got an error message saying I had already subscribed to the list and verified my subscription. What should i do? I’m really, really interested in participating.
Ah…never mind. I just read the post more closely. Very excited!