The Writing Waiting Game

Wednesday, May 13, 2015
We’re always in such a hurry, aren’t we?

We drive fast and furious, we eat fast food, we want to make the fast bucks! And writing’s no different. We want to be published yesterday. The problem is, when it comes to writing, getting it done fast is not necessarily a good thing.

Good writing takes time and patience and a little trust.

Letting the Writing Stew

You’ve probably heard that it’s a good idea to let a manuscript rest after completing it. Fresh eyes will allow you to see errors that you skimmed over in the heat of finishing a project. But how to know how long to let a manuscript stew?

For me, it’s the size and depth of the project. If I’m writing a short post for the Muffin, for example, I’ll finish the first draft and come back to it the next day to post it. I’ll invariably find that I’ve left a word out here or there because yep, I was rushing to get it done.

For fiction, that’s a different story. I’m looking for the bigger picture problems: plot and pacing, setting snafus, or character issues. I need to give my brain time to sort of forget the story so that when I read it again, those problems will jump off the page. I also need to allow enough time for me to fall out of love with the story. I mean, nobody likes to pick on her own baby, right? Time gives me distance to do the ruthless revisions necessary.

For a novel-length manuscript, I might give myself a month between that first draft and the first major revision. That’s where the patience comes in.

Patience Really Is a (Writing) Virtue

Gosh, I’m excited when I’m working on a story! I’m zipping along, synapses firing, rushing to get the words on the page. Unfortunately, the story in my head can’t always keep up. And so I end up leaving out bits and pieces that are kind of important.

But if I’m impatient, and start back on the revision too quick, my brain fills in those bits and pieces. It really is amazing, the human brain. It can make all those arcs, all those chapters, all those words fit the way they need to fit to make perfect sense. At least, they’ll make sense to me.

And so I’ve learned to wait and work on other, shorter writing in between. I read, too. I read a lot, trusting the process.

Just a Little Bit of Trust

I’m a BIG believer in reading what you write.

If you want to be in a Chicken Soup for the Soul book, read a couple those books. And if you want your novel to be published by one of the biggies in the industry, read a lot of their recently published books. Because here’s what happens: your brain takes in all that good writing, and it’s learning, learning, learning. And when you sit down to start the rewrites, you’ll apply what you’ve learned. You just need to trust the process.

So give yourself time to write something good—and save the fast track for runners!

~Cathy C. Hall


BECKY said...

Great article, Ms. Cathy C! (Bet you're surprised to see a comment from ME, huh?!) Although writers are pretty unique characters themselves, and have their own way of doing things, in the end it's still about reading, writing, and learning. Hmmm, just like the old school days, huh? :)

sally said...

Great post! And speaking of leaving out words because you're in a hurry--I wish I could edit my Muffin post. :) I always find typos in my blog posts, even after they've sat for days.

But back to stewing--yes, let those stories stew. You are exactly right--we know and love our stories and can't see the holes until we can forget the stories enough to read them with fresh eyes.

Tina Cho said...

I'm in the patience game as we speak, waiting for people to get back to me about my writing. And I just got back my first critique on my novel and will start revising. I like your sentence that we "want to be published yesterday." How true!

Debra Mayhew said...

Very timely post for me to read. I have the bad habit of getting a few chapters down and revising them right away which stalls the rest of the book. I'm forcing myself to keep writing until it's done, which is currently very painful. But as I write, I take comfort in knowing that reading good books is just as important as time at the computer, and I find that to be very fun "work"! I always appreciate it when someone reiterates that often overlooked advice.

Cathy C. Hall said...

Becky, always happy to see you!

And Sally, happily you're so brilliant, I'm sure no one notices any blips--:-)

Tina, thanks for the inspiration! And Debra, get back to work! (So what're you reading?) :-)

Lisa Ricard Claro said...

Yes, yes, to everything. Don't you ever get tired of being right? :) I learned just how much that distance helps when I received back my first round of edits on my book. I hadn't seen the ms in five months, and it was quite the shock to start reading and see it from that much distance. I'd never waited that long before. I immediately saw the value in the slow pace of publishing and the length of time between edits. It really does make for stronger insights.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Cathy--I need to find a happy medium between allowing too much time (thus getting stagnant) and pushing things (which results in crap on paper).

Thanks for the post, as usual.

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