Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Putting Work Away Before and During Revisions

Many writers suggest putting your WIP out of sight for a while. The work is sometimes put away for a week, sometimes for a month or two, depending on how close the writer is to it. When I first started writing, it didn't take too long to figure out that this is great advice. Today was a good example of why this has become standard practice for me.

I had put my Pockets contest entry away for a few days. Spring has sprung and I had been sprucing up the yard, cleaning the house, doing all those chores I do in early spring. This morning it's raining and a perfect day to write, so I pulled out my story.

I don't know if other writers do this but sometimes what I think is in the story is actually in my head and no longer in print. I found a paragraph I had revised for word count that sounded fine when I put it away. This morning I discovered that the conclusion I wanted the reader to draw from this paragraph could no longer be drawn. If I hadn't put it away for a while, I don't think I would have found it.

How do you handle revisions and being too close to your work?


  1. I find this happens to me all the time. Even if I just put a piece aside for a couple of days, it reads completely differently when I come back to it. I actually blogged about a similar topic today: when you're so close to your writing that you can't see even the most obvious answers to problems. In that case it's good to get another pair of eyes.

  2. I do rely on crit partners for that fresh pov. And I try to put it away. I would need more than a week. Atleast a month for the time away to be effective. That's why I like going back to something after a year to figure out a rewrite. I'm much more objective and can the faults. But, I'm sure small breaks help too, just not in seeing the big picture.

  3. Anna, I agree and just got back from your reading your blog. I'm not in a critique group right now, but I do have a trusted writer/reader friend who double checks for me and vice-versa.

    Laura, on novel length manuscripts I do put them away for several months before going back to them. First I do a quick line by line edit but no major revisions, then I put it away. After working on other things when I finally get it out again I'm ready for major revisions because I see it much more clearly.

  4. I'm a firm believer in putting your work aside for as long as you can. The more time, the better. It's amazing what pops off the page when you look at it again. A crit partner is also good because they're another pair of fresh eyes. Ultimately, though, it's your eyes that count because it's your story.

  5. Putting the work away for a while is definitely the best way to spot problems you didn't see earlier. What's less frequent--but even more awesome--is when you spot a section that really works, and you think, "Wow! Did I really write that?"

  6. Andrea, I do agree that ultimately it's the writer's own eyes that counts.

    Ruth, I definitely have experienced the "Wow, Did I really write that?" moment. It helps to experience that when so many other things aren't working. Thanks for stopping by.