Why you should leave a first draft to settle before revising or editing it.
Completing the first draft of a novel is a phenomenal feeling. I’ve made no secret of my emotions: writing ‘THE END!!!’, with perhaps just a couple more exclamation marks, is enough to make anybody feel an enormous sense of accomplishment. I was raring to get back into it, ready to go nuclear on an army of typos and grammatical mishaps, but instead, I imposed a two-week writing break. How I managed to stick to it, I’m quite not sure, but giving a manuscript time to settle is a tried-and-tested method used by a whole crowd of writers.
Let me explain: jumping straight back into a manuscript immediately after completion is often a poor decision. As Roz Morris outlines in her fantastic book, Nail Your Novel, if you refuse to take a break, then you will be editing for the wrong reasons. As eager as you may be to finish, and show your baby to the world, you have to remember that writing isn’t a race. That’s the beauty of it: you pick your own schedule, and you stick to it. Treat the period between first draft completion and starting the rewrite as sick-leave for all those caffeine overdoses and late nights.
You don’t have to spend the time away from writing completely, though. I have done quite the opposite, using the two weeks to get to grips with social media, read a few writerly resources, and set up this very blog. By doing this, my platform is in place, and unlike the solitary first draft stage, I have a whole crowd of people cheering me on to make my ‘late 2012’ deadline. If I don’t, then heads – or specifically, my head – will roll.
Okay, I might have had a few drinks in that two-week space, too. I deserve it.
Alright, alright: I might have had a cheeky read through my manuscript too. No editing yet, though, I promise.
What are your favourite methods after completing your first draft? Do you prefer to let the dust settle on the manuscript, or jump straight back into it?
Hello Ryan! I totally agree – once you’ve finished a novel, or even a short story, it can be a good idea to let it rest (or settle) and then come back to it with fresh eyes. I haven’t managed to take myself back to my NaNoWriMo novel from last year yet, but perhaps I can edit it this November (not that’s time to settle!). Thanks for a great post!
Thanks Carrie! I agree, even short stories should be left for a little while. Wow, a whole year, that is impressive! Good luck – you can have no doubts about going into it with fresh eyes now!