by Kelsie Engen
Many first time writers will finish a first draft and then immediately dive into revisions. It’s sometimes difficult to convince them that this is exactly the wrong thing to do. After all, we want to keep the momentum going right? So we immediately set to work on the edits, pounding away on the keyboard until our fingers are as bloody as our red pen. And pretty soon, we’re sick to death of our novel and we can’t bear to look at it.
So we set it aside and can’t bear to look upon it for months. And then we don’t get our books finished–because we hate them.
Let’s be honest. After spending 1-2 months with your novel, you know several things:
- you hate your novel
- your novel needs a lot of work (aka it sucks)
- you need to go “on a break.”
(P.S. Yes, it’s okay to “cheat” on your novel. You are on a break though–so make sure you come back to it.)
Appreciating what you have
Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate what you’ve got.
Only after you’ve gained some distance from your novel and let it “rest,” can you return to it and appreciate it for what it is–and what it can be. You can then look at it with fresh eyes and recognize both its strengths and weaknesses.
So there are reasons for letting your novel rest–but what do you do while it is resting? Do you just not write? Impossible. After all, you just spent the last month fostering a write every day habit. By no means do you want to let that habit go. So what do you do?
First of all realize:
- writers write.Maybe not all writers write every day, but many do. And you should capitalize on the NaNo momentum you’ve gained. Don’t let your writing habit disappear. Habits are hard to make and hard to gain back, so don’t make this mistake.
- learning to multi-task is a critical skill.All manuscripts need to rest–whether they go to beta readers or an editor, you need to keep your forward writing moment and begin to work on new projects.
- starting a new work prevents you from focusing on your draft so much.It distract you from the plot of your draft by forcing you to consider a new, fresh plot, with its own challenges.
- working on 2-3 or even 4 projects at once is better than 1.Having multiple projects that you rotate through is often the best way to work on things. This gives you 1-2 months of rest from every project. E.g. WIP 1 January, WIP 2 February, WIP 3 March, WIP 1 April, etc. Depending on the length and complexity of your project, 1 month may not be enough. But still consider rotating through every 2 months or so, or doing 2 months on a novel project, 1 month on a short story, etc. in order to give your WIPs rest time and you a break from them.
- writers need to read a lot.If you’re not writing or don’t have the time to write, one of the best things to do is to read–a lot. (Of course, I don’t really believe that you “don’t have time to write.” I think that’s an excuse. If you have 5-10 minutes, you have time to write.) Read blogs, writing books, fiction in and outside of your genre. Get out there and read, and learn from what you read.
- you must take care of yourself.Sometimes when you’re “on a break” you use it as an excuse to be lazy and fill our mind and body with junk food. Don’t do this–it will be much harder to regain a healthy habit after this kind of break.
- journaling can keep you in the habit of writing.If you aren’t immediately picking up a new project, then consider journaling–about your day, about a new project, or whatever inspires you. Keep yourself writing in some fashion.
The moral of the story is this: we need a break from our books in order to see them more clearly. Take your time, as it is never wasted. Sometimes by not working on your novel, you’re actually doing it the best favor you can: you’re letting your subconscious work on you.
Guest post contributed by Kelsie Engen. Kelsie loves to read and started her blog to share that passion with others of like mind.