Thursday, February 16, 2012

Question from a Writer - Taking Time To Let A Project "Marinate"

Many writers say you should let a story sit for weeks, if not months, before you go back to edit it, but it seems you disagree.

Obviously there is no real correct answer on this one. I do think there is a reason to not immediately start editing a project the moment you write "THE END". Giving your mind a break is always a good thing to do so that you can see the story in a new light.

With that said, I think my bigger concern is the length of time between finishing the project and then editing. Weeks and months really seem to be a bit too long. In all honesty, when you get back to that project, you will be so disconnected to it, that revisions will be much more extensive than they need to be.

I would also add that, as I said in an earlier comment, if you clearly think through your story BEFORE you start writing, the amount of revisions you would need to do would be significantly smaller. I always tell writers to "front load" the work during the pre-writing phase. The less work you do in the planning stage always means that you increase the amount of work you have to do later on. Failure to plan out a story means that you may end up heading down the wrong path, writing chapters that you don't need, and then having to go back and completely re-do work. This is time that you simply cannot afford to give up.

Again, this is just one approach. Remember, I am also talking about writers who, if they do decide to become a professional writer, will have deadlines to keep and that "marinating" stage might not be available.



  1. True. You hear it everywhere: let it sit. One week, two weeks, two months, etc. I side with you on this one, although I do think maybe a week's break isn't out of order.

    What no book out there seems to mention is how long the revision process ought to take. I mean, on average, for an average-sized novel. Obviously, it takes as long as it needs to take. But, there has to be some benchmark, a North star, which new authors can use to set their bearings on.

  2. I've found it helpful to leave a book for a week or so before coming back for revisions, but I always build that break into my plan. Say I want my book done in a year and know revisions are likely to take me two months. That means I plan to finish my first draft done in ten months minus a week or two.

    However, I've also found that by the time I finish a draft, I've somewhat forgotten the beginning anyway, so revising that is easy enough. Breaks are helpful when you need to revise big things (which, sadly, can still happen even with an outline sometimes) and need some distance so you can forget the information in your head and see only what you've put in the book.