I realized something about myself last night. Of all the stages of writing a book….forming the idea, character sketching, plotting, outlining, writing an actual draft, revising, receiving feedback…there is one single step out of the whole process that is – by far – the most difficult for me.
It’s the NOT working part.
Most writers will tell you to let a manuscript breathe. Let it rest, put it away, forget about it, so you can return to it with a fresh eye. This is supposed to make “killing your darlings” easier. Stephen King, in his book On Writing, recommends giving it at least six weeks. I’m sure many writers wait even longer.
This is a little embarrassing, but the longest I’ve held out is two.
I HATE waiting. When I’m in the throws of writing, revising, I want to eat, sleep, breathe my manuscript. I want to think about it in the car, pick it up during commercial breaks while watching Chuck. Tweak a sentence here, add a line of dialogue there. The actual writing of the first draft feels the most like work – sometimes I find opportunities to procrastinate at that stage. But revising? Oh, I want to revise all day, all night.
On Sunday, I finished the latest round of revisions on my manuscript. It’s off to the next round of betas, and I said I’d let it sit for a week, maybe two…try to wait until I get their feedback.
It’s been one day and I’m desperate to open the document, reread a sentence or two, tweak that part near the end that I know isn’t quite right yet.
Makes me feel a little crazy!
I’ve put together a list of things I do - or should do - to distract myself during this “resting” time…feel free to add your own or just commiserate in the comments!
1) Start a new project – I find this works best if it’s a project that has NOTHING to do with novel writing. Like finishing that wedding scrapbook I started almost two years ago. Or finally finishing all the critiquing I’ve had piling up for my partners because I was in the throes of revisions. Other good options: pick up a new sport, learn to knit, take dancing lessons, bake cookies.
2) Cleanse your brain – When I'm working, I don't like to read so much...pulls me out of my own story. But I LOVE to read. So this is my opportunity! rRead some great books in your genre, read some great books outside of your genre. Get into a new TV show. Go to the movies. I’ve been obsessed with catching up on Vampire Diaries (hey! I write YA) and have a stack of books I’ve been dying to read that I’m about to dive into. (First on the list, City of Bones by Cassandra Clare)
3) Exercise – This is one I’m absolutely worst at. I HATE to exercise. But I’ve found watching Vampire Diaries episodes while on the treadmill (and doing CrossFit workouts MAJOR HOTSAUCE has prescribed) is super motivating. I’ve worked out for almost a month consistently because of that little trick!
4) Go on vacation – not an option for me, but if you go somewhere without your computer, you can’t touch your manuscript, right? Doesn’t have to be expensive or far away, or even more than a day…it's good to just get out of the house, away from the computer and the manuscript that’s burning a hole in it.
5) Last but not least…rejoin the world! Make a lunch date with an old friend, go to your nephew’s birthday party. Walk through the mall. See people, interact with them…talk to someone who isn’t furry and walks on four legs. Oh wait…maybe that’s just me. I tend to cut myself off from the world a little when I’m in the throes of a novel…this is my chance to remind my friends and family that I’m still breathing. With the added benefit of meals that don’t come from a microwave. Score!
How long do you let a manuscript “rest” before tackling revisions? Between rounds? What tricks do YOU use to distract yourself? And do they work? ::slinks off to open manuscript file:: ;-)