Letting your baby rest
Did you know wild elephants average just 2 hours of sleep a night? Thankfully, humans typically get more sleep than that. But suffice it to say, all living things need to rest. Same with your manuscript. After we’ve drafted, edited, tweaked, and trashed our work for weeks or months, it needs a break.
If we let it rest (optimally for a month) we can approach the story with an unbiased and renewed look. With fresh eyes consider:
Do the characters have consistent and unique voices?
Are there superfluous parts of the story that can be cut?
Are there unnecessary named characters whose actions can be merged into another character?
Does the plot slowdown in places where there should be action/tension?
Is there too much backstory or physical description that can be eliminated or combined with actions and/or conversations?
Resting your manuscript is a powerful writer’s tool. You might wonder if the respite should be scheduled once or more than once. I typically let mine rest a few times. First, a manuscript rests after I finish my first crappy rough draft (i.e., finished means it’s between 60,000 and 80,000 words). At other times, I take a month away after a major revision. For example, in November I will let Chrom Y Returns: Book I of The Chrom Y Chronicles rest while a professional editor reviews my draft.
Novice writers may wonder what to do while you ignore your baby. Won’t you be tempted to tinker with it? I’ve found the best activity to do while a story is in repose is to start writing something else. Most times, I sketch out my next novel. But I’ve also stretched myself with new writing activities, like writing short stories, taking a writing craft class, or learning more about marketing my books.
Who knew that resting your work might be as important as drafting and editing?