Monday, November 30, 2015

Step Away From That Manuscript--After #NaNoWriMo

This post was going to be about monsters, but it's not, because things are happening all at once again, as they sometimes do in my life. Due to these mitigating factors, this will be a much shorter post than my previous two.

Initially, I had wanted to talk to you about the importance of monsters in fiction. However, I am under a deadline, and it's the end of NaNoWriMo so I figured most of you were under deadlines, too.

Anyway, I thought I would impart a bit of writing advice to you.

Or make that non-writing advice, as the case might be.

That's right. I'm telling you not to write. Let me explain:

If you participated in NaNoWriMo, I'm sure you're excited about your story. You should be. Writing a work of fiction can be a major undertaking. Whatever else you do, finish your story.

If you intend to submit your story for publication, I would like to make a suggestion. this will be the hardest thing you will do, but I suggest that you set your story aside for one week at the very least. One month is optimal.

Don't look at it. Don't think about it. Write something else. Start a blog. Play on Twitter. Take a workshop. Read. Read. Read. Read books and stories within your genre and outside your genre.

But whatever you do ...








You will be amazed at the things you see when you go back and read it after being away from it for a week or more. You will find missing words, badly phrased sentences--sentences that sounded so profound in your head when you first wrote them now seem trite and underdeveloped! You will discover poor transitions between paragraphs, and scenes that were fun to write, but don't actually move the plot forward.

By leaving the manuscript alone for a period of time and returning to it, you will find the themes that stand out clearly, and the muddled subplots that need to be eliminated.

This past summer, I was on a deadline to complete Without Light or Guide and did not have the luxury of a week away from the manuscript like I had with In Midnight's Silence. The difference between the two was that Without Light or Guide took a lot more editorial guidance and rewrites than In Midnight's Silence.

With my last novella in the series, I had the luxury of that week. I'm rereading the manuscript now with an eye toward clarity and plot. I'm catching simple errors and more complex ones in order to fill in the story so that it reads more smoothly.

So at midnight on November 30 (or on the date you finish the first draft), step away from that manuscript. Let it simmer. At the end of the month, you'll be able to see precisely what the story is missing, and you will make it better with each pass.


Rachel A. Marks said...

So true! Great advice, T!

Helen Lowe said...

Wonderful advice, Teresa. Thank you.

T. Frohock said...


It has really paid off for me. I've always found that extra time is helpful! ;-)

Terri Garey said...

I could not agree more, Teresa! It's so easy to miss the forest for the trees (as they say) when your head is bound up in the imaginary world you've created. Taking a step back, then looking again when a little time has passed allows you to see the big picture, with all it's flaws. Great writing advice!