Writing 101: Stepping Away

There is a rule out there that says when an author finishes their first draft they have to put it away for a certain amount of time before they edit it. While the amount of time that is suggested varies from a few weeks to “…until you forget that you even wrote it…”, according to a fellow author friend, everyone says the same thing.

I thought this was a really weird idea. I mean, when I’m writing a paper for school I don’t need to set it aside for a few weeks before I edit. I can usually do that as I write, or as late as the next morning. So, why should I bother with my creative work?

Well I’ve got a few ideas about why/how this works in our brains.

  1. You’re too close to it.
    1.  So, have you ever been digging around in your closet and come across an old work of yours? Do you remember how awesome you thought it was? How perfect the prose? How intricate the characters? Do you ever re-read it and think “Oh dear snicky-snack what was I thinking?” Yeah.
      Apply that same thought process to your work today. When you first write something you are absolutely sure that it is amazing. It’s your best work and it will only need the most perfunctory of editing polish to make it shine. I hate to tell you this, but you’re wrong.
      You need to put it away and step back from it. You need to give yourself some breathing room to let the rose colored fog seep out of your glasses so that you can look at it clearly.
  2. You grow as a writer over time
    1. As a creative person with a literary bent you should be devouring the written word. You should be reading poetry, literary fiction, non-fiction news articles, lifestyle articles, history, genre fiction of all variety. And with every word you devour you become a better writer. You see how other writers handle characters, situations, scenarios. You learn different words, or are inspired by different descriptions. With every piece of work that you read YOU become a better writer, and you owe it to your work to gain a little experience before coming back to it.
  3. You grow into your style
    1.  Have you ever been in the middle of reading a book and flat out said “Okay, I wouldn’t have done it like that?” That’s because you, as a writer, have a style that is all your own. You are looking at this work with your own perspectives and that makes you a more analytical writers than those who are reading just for fun.
      Now, this helps you. That little voice that says “Do it better!” will actually prompt you to go back to your own work and go “Okay, did I do this badly?”
  4. Your experience changes your perception of your work
    1. I know this might sound like a fortune cookie but I mean it: Every day is an experience. Read that again, it’s sorta a big deal where a writer is concerned. Every day you can see something, hear something, taste something that could add a dash of perfection to a scene that you wrote. While this is a tricky reason since it basically says that you could always do better…you should give your work at least a little time to make sure the inspiration is played out.
  5. You need to be in love with it, not just attracted to it
    1. Okay, you know the first part of a relationship when everything is wild and crazy and you just can’t handle not being around eachother? You call at three in the morning and you wanna smell each others hair? No? Just me? Oops…anyway!
      There is always a rush in the beginning of a romance. It’s not love, it’s attraction. You are drunk on the hormones of “Ooooo!” and you just can’t get enough. You, friends, are addicts.
      When that time settles down, and everything has lost that overwhelming shine you begin to see that the person you are with has a few flaws. Now, as intelligent human beings you decide whether or not these are flaws you can live with, or if that laugh is going to cause you to flip out and stab a pillow.
      You have the same interest in your work. In the very beginning you are enamored with it. You are besotted. You need to be able to be in love with it. Take a little break and come back to it to see it in that less impassioned light.

I hope this helps you, because what it means for me is that I’ll be working on Book 2 of the Domina Claire series. Yay.

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