Monday, August 20, 2012

Step Away From The Manuscript

This makes me want to crack open all my Calvin and Hobbes books

Step away from the manuscript.

We've all heard that advice, right? When you've finished, put it aside, work on something else, read, hone your craft, heck just live your life, and then come back to the manuscript later. Why? Because you'll have fresh eyes.

Here's something else I've learned that happens when you step away from the manuscript.

I wrote Sway last fall, and then put it aside like a good little author for max a month maybe. Then I did a revision on it before I sent it off to my first reader. When she sent it back, I did another round of revisions and then sent it off to four new readers around January. I wasn't in a rush with Sway and told them so. I've now gotten back all four rounds of notes, and realize I've got some major changes to make, so right now, I'm just reading through the MS and jotting down notes without making through-the-MS changes yet.

So here's what I've learned (I'm getting to it, I swear): When I finish a first draft, there's this high that comes. Like, "I'm awesome, I finished another MS, look at me go, oh yeah, oh yeah." I also get this feeling of, "this MS is AWESOME!" When I revised Sway after only a month, I was still on that high. Still amazed with my own awesomeness. Still feeling like the MS was near-perfect.

I know, I know, don't laugh, but it's true. I get blinded by the fact that I've finished another MS, and I mistakenly think that the manuscript itself is genius.

Six months later I'm painfully aware that IT'S NOT.

That feeling of awesomeness is a great thing, and I wouldn't take it away- it doesn't last long. But it's important for me to step away from the manuscript long enough so not only do I have fresh eyes, but I no longer have blind manuscript-infatuation. Long enough that just finishing isn't enough anymore, but making it the BEST it can be is what matters.


  1. I am a fast re-writer. I completely agree with stepping away after the first draft, but after a week, I'm itching to get back at it again! I usually find seven days is enough for me to be refreshed, but I would love it if I could learn to let it stew for a little longer!

  2. I had that same high you described, thought my ms was incredible, and was all ready to get that thing published, when life stepped in the way and I was forced to put it down for 3 months. And I stepped FAR away from it... dealt with a death in the family, had a field school and field project that monopolized 6 straight weeks of my time, had a family vacation to plan and try to enjoy... And when I picked it up again I was smacked in the face with a GLARING plot hole about 40 pages in. WHA??

    I'm totally converted now. I will always put a completed MS down and step far away from it for a few months. Because you're right, the passage of time only made me see how I could make it better, and that's what counts.

  3. I know the feeling. You're right that time away is the best thing. Then you can come back and look at it with fresh eyes, and hopefully, fall in love (with the best parts) all over again!

  4. I know exactly what you're talking about. I've found that I have to step away for a really long time before I can make the kinds of decisions that are in the best interest of the novel. For me, it takes a long time before I'm not trying to figure out how to just get it "out there" sooner, because those are never the "making it as good as it can be" choices.