We discussed this at the Inland Empire SCBWI conference in Spokane on Saturday. It's a very small golden nugget of writing wisdom, but highly valuable.
Once you finish the first draft of your manuscript, let it sleep.
(This was from author Claire Rudolf Murphy's very awesome Do's and One Don't List. I'll share the whole list later. Promise.)
So I raised my hand (it's a small conference, so it was totally acceptable in this session to raise one's hand.)
"How long do you leave your manuscript alone?"
One woman near the front tossed up Stephen King's advice: letting your manuscript rest for six months.
But Ms. Murphy chimed in with a much more (in my opinion) judicious "at least three weeks."
So, there you have it. We all knew we needed to let that manuscript sleep, but we were all wondering how long.
The point of letting your WiP sleep or brew or bake (or whatever it's doing when you walk away and leave it alone) is to give you emotional distance from the work. While it's in your face all the live-long day, it's too easy to go cross-eyed, ignore small flaws, speed read, and so on.
Time gives distance.
And this was the most interesting part to me:
Once you go back and re-read your first draft manuscript, read it twice.
And then decide: is this something in which I want to invest my time?
Am I going to go the distance with this story?
Am I going to polish this thing to death and eventually query it?
Or am I going to pick out some good parts and start with something different?
You know, I'd never thought about abandoning a project after letting it sleep.
By the end of the first draft, it seems created already.
I already feel committed.
But wow - what a great tip:
The freedom to abort mission, before you give any more of your life to something that won't go anywhere.
Give yourself the freedom to let it go, to start something new and fresh, OR to even take the excellent parts of the original idea and spin it into something different.
That's good stuff. Definitely a hunk of pure gold.
What do you think? Have you thought about this aspect of resting your manuscript before?