Why You Should Put Aside Your Novel Before Editing

Wednesday, February 4, 2015
Once upon a time, I finished my first novel. I was ecstatic, and my celebration included extreme flailing, giddiness, and lots of CAPS when reporting this to friends. I rested it for a few days, but after that immediately wanted to start on edits. I was almost going to do so when a friend encouraged me not to, and take a break instead. I'm so glad I followed her advice.
 
 
So you've finished a novel. Congratulations! ((And if you haven't yet, you'll get there. I believe in you.)) But first drafts are nowhere close to perfection. You'll have typos. You'll have mistakes--lots of them.
 
It makes sense that you'll want to start working on your manuscript right away, shredding it to pieces. ((Unless you're someone who has no desire to edit your novel. The day will come someday.))
 
But don't edit. Wait. And here's why:
 
1. You Can Use that Time to Get Re-excited About Your Novel
 
((And according to the dictionary, re-excited is not a word. This is new information to me. Doesn't anybody else get excited over and over again about the same thing?))
Chances are, if you're anything like me, editing will very easily take the excitement away from your novel. It's like a child who first learned to wash the dishes or sweep the floor. It's awesome when you first do the task, but by the third or fourth time, it's not hard to realize that this is no longer a 'fun' activity.
So use that vacation time to remember why you first started your novel. Get excited about the changes you're going to produce in order to make your story better.
 
2. Genius Ideas May Not Be What They Once Were
 
That witty piece of dialogue you wrote? It doesn't fit the scene.
The plot twist at the end? It's clich├ęd.
The herd of unicorns? Sorry, mister, but it just doesn't work with a historical romance.
Taking that break with your novel will allow your mind to refocus. Things usually aren't as awesome as they were the first time around.
 
3. Every Writer Needs a Break
 
There's no doubt that you've spent countless hours on your novel. You deserve a break. Get some sleep, read a book, paint a picture. Enjoy other things you love to do. During that break you might get some new ideas. Inspiration will often come to you when you're not looking for it. It's happened to me before.
 
- - - - - - - - - -
 
So How Long of a Break Should I Take?
 
I don't think there's a 'specific' answer. But a good place to start would be a month. I put my novel aside between NaNoWriMo and December. It gave me time for Christmas and prepare for how I wanted to go about the massive task of editing. Ultimately, it is your choice.
 
Byeeeee!
- Katie Grace
 
How long do you put aside your novel before editing it?
 
((Check out my other post on editing: Editing When You Don't Feel Like It))
 
 
 

21 comments :

  1. Re-excited isn't a word? I get re-excited about stuff all the time! Anyways, I whole-heartedly agree with this post. Please follow Katie's advice! If you start editing right away, you will probably think every single word is perfect and in it's place. :)

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    1. We should start a petition to put it in the dictionary. xD
      Thank you, Alea! That's what I would've thought...

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    2. YAS. I will join this petition. xD

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  2. I need to start using the word re-excited...it SO describes me a lot of the time. I don't know why I hadn't thought of it before xD So thanks for pointing that out! Words-that-aren't-words-but-totally-should-be are the best. This is science. Sort of. Probably.

    Ahem.

    Ughhh number 2. That's so me right now and it's killing me, because I want things to be good and they are they just...don't fit. Like what's up with that? It really shouldn't be as much of a problem as it is, haha. I generally give myself a month after finishing a draft, to work on something else or read a bunch of books or catch up with life. But usually start something else. Because I do like having fresh material to set my mind to. xD And in the middle of multiple drafts of the SAME novel I've found I really need those breaks more than ever, so I can step away from it still.

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    1. xP
      Yeah. Breaks are needed. And number two describes me a lot. That's mostly why I put it up there. :p It's funny reading over my first draft, because I can remember my happiness when writing it, supposedly thinking it was genius. But now I just cringe at those scenes....

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  3. This is great advice! I haven't written a novel yet, but I was planning on doing so this year. I would love to read your novel. Am I able to buy it? What is it about?

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    1. Thanks, Daisy!
      Writing a novel is hard, but it is so worth it. You could participate in Camp NaNoWriMo (in April and July) to help you reach that goal. It is a great motivation.
      'Twould be amazing if my novel was published and you were able to read it... But I'm not there yet. Hopefully someday I'll be able to get it published, (or a different one) and then you can read it. :)

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  4. These are great tips. I think in the book On Writing by Stephen King, he also suggests to put the writing aside. (or was it a different book? =/) I wish I'd actually finished a novel by now to test out this idea. Especially #1 because I can feel the excitement for my novel fading and that alarms me a bit. -le sigh- Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thanks, Ashana!
      (I have no idea... I haven't read that book, but I've heard a lot about it.)
      When I first started my novel, a couple months in I began to feel discouraged and not very excited... It was a blog (Go Teen Writer's) that got me re-excited (there's that word again. xP) by meeting some writing friends. And sometimes taking a break will help, even if you're not done with your novel. Relaxing and putting your novel aside may generate some new inspiration and hopefully get you re-excited again.

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  5. It is so important to take breaks before editing. I've found that taking breaks allows me to distance myself from my story enough that I can come back to it with fresh eyes. Ultimately, that's what helps make the editing process a little bit easier. It's also good to just relax during the break because writing a book is so exhausting, and we writers deserve a break every once in a while.

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  6. I'm like you! I NEVER used to have breaks (maybe a day?!) but now I take 6+ weeks off. Okay, fine. I sometimes take a whole year off. HA. I'll start another project after 6 weeks or so, maybe, but I won't touch THAT project for a while. I think breaks are super important. I think it can distance you emotionally too, eh? And when you come back you're either ready to tackle what you though was catastrophically awful (and it's not that bad now! YaY!) or else you're ready to edit what you thought was perfect. xD
    Thanks for stopping by @ Paper Fury!

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    1. I don't think I could take the whole year off.. Well, maybe with editing, but DEFINITELY not with writing. I love writing too much. xD
      I'm more the person where I have to edit what I thought was perfect. :p

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  7. I totally agree! For awhile, I didn't understand the point of taking a break, but now I get it. I also appreciate that you didn't name a specific amount of time. It's a pretty personal process, editing, so it totally depends on the person.

    Also, I think if you get excited about something more than once it's called fangirling, haha.

    Great post!

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    1. Fangirling. xP That's a pretty accurate definition, though I can't imagine why I would have to get re-excited about it when I already loves it so much. :D
      Thank you!

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  8. I totally agree with these reasons for not jumping into editing straight away. One important reason I like to take time away from my book is so that I can forget what I wrote. This is really important for me, because as a reader I like to analyze the logic of books, so forgetting what I wrote means I can read the book as a reader, not a writer, and I can see how it works as a whole and whether this pile of words has logic to it, or whether it stinks and needs sorting out. For me, I like to take at least six weeks off between edits, but often it's more like a couple of months as a I work on another project.

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    1. Ooh, yes. I totally agree. It's not easy for me to forget things I wrote, though, because I have such a bad memory. "Oh, what's this? A new story? Did I write this?" xP
      *nods* That sounds like a good schedule.
      Thanks for commenting!

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  9. I usually don't have too much of a problem putting a finished story away and waiting to edit, because editing is pretty much the worst!! And I invariably start to get tired of seeing a story over and over again by the end of editing, so why not wait on it? ;)

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    1. Yeah... My worry now is that once I put my novel to rest, I'll never pick it up again because editing is nowhere near enjoyable. :p

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  10. This is so true!! I'm not really a writer, but when I do have to write (mainly for classes) it always helps to put it down for a while so that I have a clear head when I come back. :)
    Sophia
    someplaceinthemidst.blogspot.com

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    1. And a clear head on projects is always a good thing to have. :)

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