WRITING TIPS: DECEMBER 2018

LET IT BREATHE

In the last few posts we’ve been talking about tackling that first draft and getting it done. Now that you’ve completed your first draft, you can sit back and relax a little. Celebrate a little. You deserve it. You’ve accomplished something – you wrote a book.

Now I recommend that you stuff your completed manuscript into a drawer or leave it alone on your computer for a while (but always have the file backed up). You just put it away for a while and let it “cool down” and let it breathe.

How long? I would suggest at least a week or two. Maybe even three or four weeks. It’s up to you.

Why let your manuscript breathe? Why not just rush right into rewriting? Sometimes if you let the story sit for a few weeks, you can come back to it with fresh eyes, pick up some logical or structural mistakes, or even change a few scenes around. Another reason is that writing that first draft may have drained your energy a bit, and now you might need some time to recuperate. Of course you want to write your book as quickly as you can, but you also want to take a little time and put your best book out there.

What are you supposed to do while your manuscript is cooling down? You could take a few weeks off and let your mind rest, or let it wander. Or you could work on other projects. I’m sure you’ve got some other projects you would like to get started. You could start outlining another book, or jot down some notes for future books. Or you could work on some marketing or social media tasks that may have been piling up.

But be careful. If you’re going to take some time off, don’t stay away from writing too long. Remember, writing is like a muscle that needs to be constantly exercised. Another danger is that you get too involved in your next project and ignore the first draft you’ve just finished (I’ve done this more than a few times). You need to have the discipline to go back to your first draft and start the real work: re-reading, editing, fine-tuning.

One note: This is just a suggestion, and each writer has his or her own process. If you don’t want to let the first draft cool down, go ahead and dive right into the editing of it. But for me, it has always helped to let the story breathe for a little while before jumping right back into it.

So you’ve let your manuscript cool off for a week or two, or even longer. You’ve pulled the manuscript out of the drawer or pulled it up on the computer. Now it’s time to edit your work.

And we’ll talk more about editing in the next post in January, but before that I will have an end-of-the-year post at the end of December.

Hope this helps someone out there, and I would welcome any feedback you have.

Until next time . . .

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