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.
Reblogged this on Dr. Jes Goldstein: Fictional Blog Series.
Number 4 made me so happy: I can’t just work on one thing at a time no matter how hard I try! Resting from a project before editing, but not losing creative momentum, is good advice.
All good advice! I really need to keep in the Nano habit of writing every day, I always feel so drained after that I lose it! But I do usually end up reading a lot more…
The author of this article tells or suggests what to do. Write or do something related to a different type of writing: criticism, essays, short stories unrelated to the novel and reading – sometimes unrelated to the novel.
Hemingway claimed that the best editor he ever had was his kitchen drawer, which tells us at least two things. The first and most important is for a writer (any writer) to let the finished draft sit and simmer; as others have suggested take your mind and your efforts elsewhere, do something else for a week or two or three. The second coincidental thing is that (unless my recollection is awry, and that is a real possibility) Hemingway either wrote in the kitchen or was very short of suitable storage drawers for drafts – or that the kitchen was where he headed after work was done; refuelling the beast perhaps.
A change is a good as a rest. After finishing the first draft of my present WIP in November, I vowed not to touch it again until the New Year. I started my major edit a couple of weeks ago and I feel the break helped me to see things more clearly.
Reblogged this on Kim's Author Support Blog.
I was just listening to NPR and they were discussing reading and how print is bigger than ebooks again, funny part was that I was on my way to a poetry workshop and reading. I have let the bug but me again and I’m finding that I’m writing at work, while I’m waiting for a train, in fact right now this counts as writting. I also like the idea of reading something else, letting that distract you while that fickle inspiration fairy tales a well needed coffee break. Thank you for putting this out here as a gentle reminder.
I remember going through the period of hating my novel around the completion of the second draft. I let it sit for a whole year!
Wow! This is exactly the kind of advice I needed after NaNoWriMo. I have kept aside my draft (unfinished, sadly!) and I hate it. Maybe I need to get into the writing habit again, now that I’ve had two months away from the whole thing.
Thank you for the excellent post. 😊
Reblogged this on lyncrain and commented:
The key for me is to explore many different writing paths to keep myself motivated and my mind open to new ideas which will benefit what work I have in progress. I know writing poetry, my edits are much better when I let them sit and come back with new eyes. I have no doubt this is true of all genre writing. We have to give our minds a break if you’re too involved you can’t look at it with a new perspective.
Reblogged this on Still Another Writer's Blog.
Reblogged this on Don Massenzio's Blog and commented:
Check out this great post by Kelsie Engen on what to do when you finish your novel before you dive into revisions.
Reblogged this on Words To Captivate ~ by John Fioravanti and commented:
This article makes great sense for those of us who aspire to write today better than we did yesterday!
Great post. I definitely recommend keeping a daily journal to any writer, regardless of what they write. For my, I stay in a rhythm. I journal every single day, and I don’t even count the words as part of my daily total. It’s become an innate habit, and I can’t go without writing an entry at least once daily. (I journal in the morning, so sometimes I’ll put an ‘update’ in there later in the day).
Even when I’m editing, I still have to write fresh words. I made that commitment to myself this year. I do that by blogging, writing flash fiction and short stories, dreaming up and writing new plot elements for future ideas, brainstorming, or whatever. This gives me a fresh supply of little stories I can either submit to magazines or post to social sites. It gives me extra content I can use to expand my networking, and it improves my overall writing and sense of owning who I am, a writer.