Writing Tip #8

Stick your manuscript in a drawer for a while before you edit. Or, as novelist Zadie Smith suggests, leave a “decent” space of time between writing something and editing it. As many of you complete your manuscripts for NaNoWriMo, you will be on a tremendous high as you reach the finish line. (And you should be!) You will have the urge to continue the fast pace and charge immediately into revisions. But now it’s important to put some space between you and your work in order to edit from an objective and fresh perspective. After finishing Baby Grand at the beginning of August, I took about a week to 10 days to read the manuscript over and edit, and when I submitted to my agent, I was quite happy with the draft. Then imagine my surprise when I started reading Baby Grand again this month for some minor revisions to find there were problems — plot disconnects, clunky language, weak character descriptions and just some things that I didn’t like. It was quite the eye opener. While I can’t tell you exactly how much time to put between the writing and the editing of your work, it should be long enough so that when you begin to read over your stuff, the familiarity with it has gone, and it feels almost as if you’re reading it for the first time.

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5 thoughts on “Writing Tip #8

  1. I always get the feeling that if I read something I’ve written right after I put it together, my brain is filling in the spots where I may have left something out. I know what I want it to sound and feel like, so some part of my subconscious makes it seem like a draft is exactly what I want it to be.

    There’s something about taking a month away from a big project that makes me a little less connected to what I want and to be able to see the problems.

    • Thursday, you are so right! Our brains do fill in what’s missing without it being on the page. Happens to me all the time, whether it’s my novel, a tweet or an email. Hope all is well, and thanks for stopping by!

  2. The end of NaNoWriMo is pretty well here and I won’t be making my 50,000 words this year. I’m not unhappy about it because I was using the month to work on a first draft that I began prior to the start of November and I’ve made good progress.

    I’m usually so into a story when I finish writing it that I have to give it one read-through immediately, just to pick up the obvious problems. But then I need at least a two week break from it before I can read it through with fresh eyes and not have my brain interfere. After a significant revision I may even let it sit again for another few weeks.

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