Thursday, November 3, 2011

When You're Too Close to the Book

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We know some things are good for us. We eat our veggies, double space our manuscripts and try not to blow up like a crazy person on the Internet. I hope. *Ahem* Anyhow, I recently had a blogger ask me WHY? Why is it good to put a manuscript in a drawer for a month? Good question! I mean we hear advice like that all the time. But WHY? That's kind of the important part, don't you think?


So I am going to do a new series of posts trying to clarify the WHY on some of these common bits of advice, starting today with: Why put it away?


Answer: Because you are too close to it. For the last month to year you have lived and breathed this manuscript. You are in love with your characters. You know the plot inside and out. And chances are every time you see the words they start blending together to the point they're doing the hula. So if you put it away you get distance. You gain perspective. You can re-attack it with fresh and rested eyes. 


Does it work? Hell yes. I whine and moan and complain as my critique partners tell me EVERY TIME to put it away and don't dare touch it for at least several weeks. But guess what? It's like reading a whole new book when I go back. I see stuff that needs work, but I also see what I did right. Sometimes I even say, "did I write that? Cool!" So don't be afraid of it. It's like seeing a long lost friend. 


Any other answers you can add? 

25 comments:

  1. Great post--and great advice. So easy to forget...

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  2. I notice all kinds of issues once I give my ms some space. Even a week or two can make a big difference.

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  3. I usually have more "Oh, God, I need to fix that" kind of moments than the "Wow--I'm getting good at this!" moments when I open it back up. But you need both those kinds of moments to make it good writing.

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  4. The age-old adage works here: "if you love something, set it free," and conversely: "If you currently hate it, set it free."

    Either way, when it/you come back together, you'll have changed and so will your perspective.

    "Fresh eyes see the world with a smile."

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  5. Well said! I wholeheartedly agree.

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  6. This is so true. I find that when I step away from a WIP, you can figure out the problems that are driving you batty. But the trick is not staying away *too* long.

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  7. This part IS so hard because we're itching to make it all better. But you're right, setting it aside gives us much needed space and perspective.

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  8. I put my book away several times, both after writing the first draft and after any major revision. It really, really helps!

    Angela 2 The Bookshelf Muse

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  9. I have put mine away during November and am currently distracting myself with NaNoWriMo. Anyone else doing that? However, considering that I'm writing the sequel to the first...is that going to hurt the resting period? :/

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  10. I hate putting it away too. I cringe every time. But, it really does give you a new perspective when you return to it.

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  11. excellent advice. Coming back to your work after a period away gives you a whole new perspective.

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  12. I learned a few years ago that this was necessary. I kept revising and editing manuscripts without putting them away, which was a disaster.

    I put a manuscript away for weeks, even months, and work on something else.

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  13. I know what you're up to! You're trying to hold me back so you can sneak YOUR manuscript in to an agent before I do.

    hehehehe

    I'm only half kidding. There is a deep-seated fear with some writers that their idea is so amazing, so good, so absolutely brilliant and never done before, that they must send it off RIGHT THIS MINUTE before someone else steals their idea and sends their own near-identical manuscript to the same agent just ahead of them.

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  14. One reason why I think this works so well, Lisa, is because we are so familiar with our work, and we know what we INTENDED to say, that we hear what's inside our head rather than just reading what is on the page. We need time and space to clear our head of our own voices so that we can go back to the manuscript and just read ONLY what's on the page.

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  15. Try putting it away for over a year! Now that works. I try to take at least 6 weeks off after I've done the major rewrites on my novel. But what really helps to give objectivity is to send it off to an agent - then all errors become glaringly obvious! ;)

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  16. I totally agree. I put the first draft of my WIP away for a month before revising and it was really beneficial. The distance allowed me to see it with fresh eyes. :)

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  17. I like the term "let it breathe." I know my brain needs distance to see the story as a whole rather than the piece by piece scrutiny that can happen during editing.

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  18. I have given you an award on my blog, stop by to claim it.

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  19. It's exactly as you've said. I remember reading the first draft of TMD and thinking, "This is pure gold! YES!"

    I wrote a few other books, came back to it and wondered, "What the crack was I thinking?"

    When I finished another book a month or two ago, I knew it would be going in a drawer for a couple of years. I like it better that way. It's a rediscovery. I get to see it like someone else's work, except with the joy of getting to make it be exactly what the new me wants from a book. ;)

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  20. Also, I have a hard time keeping my life in balance, so focusing on my actual life for a little while is an all-win kind of situation!

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  21. When I start falling in love with a shiny new idea, I use that opportunity to set aside my WIP. Taking the time to write notes, character sketches, bits of dialogue, and resources for future reference gives me enough distance. And I love when I find parts I can't believe I wrote. Such an ego boost!

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  22. You're right on the money. Every time I take one of mine out after a while, I see the parts that don't make sense, but I also see the places I did well!

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  23. I love this post, and excellent picture to go with it! I couldn't agree more, heck yeah it works! Seeing an old friend in a new light is always a good thing.

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  24. I am always amazed (and pleased) when I come back to my writing after a break. Just came back from one, in fact. It did wonders.

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  25. I completely agree. When we are too close to something we can't see the flaws and the parts we did well. Time away allows us to come back to it with rested eyes.

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