We all have an idea of what our writing is about. We get attached to our stories, living and breathing in them for months, sometimes years, at a time.
For you, you’ve written your socks off for the past 30 days, but in our culture of instant gratification, and the speed we can submit our work, or self-publish, the idea of letting your writing cool for weeks or months can seem like madness. Where are the sales? Where are the reviews? Where are the royalties!
Coming back to your writing at a later stage is a trusted technique used by many and here are eight reasons why you should do it, too.
1. It’s an opportunity to let go.
Letting go of the story helps us to concentrate on our craft. Without the attachment to certain characters, scenes, or sentences we’re better positioned to look with objectivity and rewrite where necessary.
Many stories contain issues or take on an inner life of their own without us realising and the only way we can see our work with fresh eyes is to let it cool.
2. It helps us gauge the longevity of the idea.
Granted, some writing is time-sensitive – a news story can’t hang around forever – but it’s worth letting even this writing cool off for a few hours if possible. For fiction, it’s the key to deciding whether your story is just another clone of whatever’s hot right now or if it’s something fresh and new that will stand on its own.
3. It strengthens the foundation.
The cooling-off period helps us to let go of our writer self and prepare the editor self.
The editor needs an element of distance from the writing to better see the work as a whole. Having this distance helps us to spot developmental weaknesses as well as technical issues.
4. It’s time for our minds to wander outside the box.
Whether we’re plotters or ‘pantsters’, we’ve effectively written a set of rails on which our writing runs. When we’re not so closely involved with the work, we see new ways of doing things, new solutions we hadn’t come up with, and new ways to ramp up the conflict.
5. It teaches us patience.
Writing, especially fiction, takes time. Whether it’s building worlds, characters, story, or all three, it can take a long time.
When we as writers understand this, we free ourselves from the urge to ship the product and focus on fixing what’s wrong. In the long term, getting it right wins us readers.
6. It’s time to write something else.
When we implement the cooling-off period, there’s the opportunity to start fresh new writing that teaches us new things about us and our craft. When we come back to our cold writing, we bring that new learning with us and our cold writing is enhanced by these new lessons.
We also find ourselves building a body of work once we finally let that initial writing go.
7. It’s an opportunity to reflect on progress.
When we put our writing away to go cold, we should take the opportunity to reflect on how far we’ve come.
For example, if you’re just drafted a novel, take comfort in the fact that many ‘one day’ novelists never make it this far, let alone make it any further. You have.
By not becoming fixated on the fact that our writing isn’t yet published, we can simply wallow in the feeling of satisfaction.
8. It’s time to be grateful.
We’ve put in time and effort, not to mention tears, in creating something from nothing. We’ve brought something new into the world that only we could conjure. Let’s take time to be grateful for that ability and promise never to take it for granted.
Stuart Wakefield is the author of Body of Water, a Kindle best seller, Spirit of Water, and more. He has been nominated for the Polari First Book Prize and the People’s Book Prize. You can visit his blog, and learn more about his writing here.