Thursday, November 17, 2011

Distance via Noveltee(n)

I'm sure all of you have heard authors, agents, or editors give this advice: take some time off from your manuscript before a big revision. Whether it's two weeks or two months, distance provides a renewed perspective that will make it easier to execute the needed changes.

Thing is, writers are impatient people. I'm impatient. We want to go out on submission now, we want to query agents now, we want a book deal now, now, now, now! I've had an agent since late April and we're just now preparing to go out on submission. Why so long? Distance.

I took a good three months away from my book before I went back to do a big revision. I mulled over the plot, the characters, and the overall structure, and I made some changes that entirely altered the story. It's so much better now than it was. And if I hadn't waited, if I had let my impatience rule me, I don't think I would've had the perspective to figure out what changes the story needed.

So here's my advice for unagented authors especially, since I know how tempting it is to revise quickly and send out queries. Take your time. After you get notes from a critique partner or a beta reader, spend a few weeks just thinking about them, brainstorming how you can alter your story to fix the identified problems.

Distance and perspective are key. If you're serious about a writing career, waiting a few more weeks to send out those queries shouldn't matter.


  1. I just finished a first draft of a novel. Perfect timing. ;)
    My question for you, Kate: Should this waiting/mulling time start after I've read through my draft of before? Usually I don't even read my story for months/weeks. That way it's like a foreign thing and I can understand the flow objectively. But maybe I can't mull as well that way. What's your order?

  2. Well put! But it's so, so hard to do.

  3. It is soooo hard to do. But I agree. I also think that the time needed varies depending on the person. Some people I think are able to naturally be more 'distant' from their work. They aren't as attached so its easier for them to see that: yes, though I love this scene/character/idea it isn't right so I've got to scratch it.

    But no matter the length, distance is important.

  4. Kate, I absolutely agree. Patience is key in this business.

    Rain, I like to read through my story to do some of the edits about a week after I finish my first draft. Then, I'll send it to beta readers and let them take their time reading. When I get back all the comments from beta readers, I do all of the bigger edits. But, that's just me. :)

  5. @Rain I think different methods work for different people. Personally, I read my story all the way through after I finish, just to get a better sense of the overall picture. Then I let it sit for a few weeks. If I get comments from beta readers or from my agent, I give myself two weeks to think over those comments and figure out how best to apply them to my manuscript.

    But again, all writers' brains work differently :).

  6. Great post, Kate. It's like holding back a wild horse to keep yourself from jumping ahead when really what you need to do is set the manuscript aside for awhile. I'm hoping that my NaNoWriMo novel will give me the needed distance from my other novel. Killing two birds.