re: Letting Your WIP RIP… For a Spell

in Creative Process by

Dear Editor…

It’s a good idea to take a break from a WIP for a period of time, say, three months, to gain perspective. But when? After I finish the rough draft? Or once I’ve revised to the point where I’m thinking the story’s in good shape?

Sincerely,

Jay

Dear Jay…

There’s no rule for this one, so let the goal of the Big Nap determine your timing. That is, the point of not looking at a work-in-progress for a short spell is to make it possible for you to see weaknesses you’ve become blind to during your deep immersion in it. If you don’t see anything to revise after the first draft, then that’s your moment. But because first drafts usually resemble a bunch of ragged swatches duct-taped to a sewing mannequin, you’ll probably spot plenty of revision possibilities then. I’d expect the blindness to set in more commonly after the second or even third draft, when, yes, you think the story’s in good shape. That’s when fresh eyes are imperative.

Happy Halloween!

The Editor

5 Comments

  1. First of all, love this blog!
    I usually take a break after I’ve finished a first/rough draft, or when I’m feeling overwhelmed or unsure where to go next. These two things usually coincide.

  2. I usually leap right back in after I finish the rough draft; I attack and tidy up, finally reading the manuscript as a whole for the first time. THEN, I take a break and let it sit for a month or more (so yes, I agree about the RIP at that point!).

  3. Happy Halloween to all of you!
    I take breaks from my WIP several times. Every time I finish a revision, I let it sit a bit longer before I go back. Normally, I find lots to change. When you get to the point where you let it rest for 1-3 months and upon returning, find only minor edits are needed – then you know it’s time to submit. I haven’t gotten there yet! But someday I will…

  4. After a first draft, I usually dive right into the second because the flaws are so easy to spot. I’m with Dear-Editor. It’s after the second or third draft where it’s hard to see your mistakes and you desperately want to think you’re done that you’re blind. A short break of a few weeks is crucial. And also the time to ask a fresh reader to look over, someone who has never seen your work before.

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