The Waiting Game
Rome wasn’t built in a day, you guys, and the plans weren’t drawn up that quickly either.
Note how the header to this post says that you “must” wait before making any moves on your manuscript.
Because I used “must” for a reason.
I didn’t say “should” or “it’s recommended” or anything along those lines where you have an option.
You DON’T have an option. You MUST wait.
Now, who am I to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do with your work, especially since I’ve spent the last, what, five and a half months giving you recommendations with the caveat of, “but also, you do you.”?
Well, I am a writer.
Says who? Says me.
And as a writer, I am brutally aware that I am too close to the #WhoIsTalyaNightingale manuscript. That’s a fact, and it’s normal. When you spend as long as I have writing a book (while also planning…a large number of other novels that fit into a shared universe), I have no choice but to get close to what I’m working on.
If you’re not close to your work, you don’t love it with a fiery passion of a thousand and a half suns, then maybe you should take some time to reconsider what you don’t love and…fix it. (You should always want to love your work, and if you don’t, then you’re probably not going to finish it to your satisfaction).
But with loving your work and wanting it to potentially get it published someday, you have to measure your expectation and with that means finding ways to step back from your manuscript when you’re done with the first draft.
And also, if you’re thinking about reaching out to agents after finishing one draft, then STOP. NO. THAT’S NOT HOW IT WORKS.
What agents want presented to them is a manuscript that is COMPLETED (beginning, middle, and ending with all the scenes and transitions and fight scenes that apply) and POLISHED.
And what does ‘polished’ mean?
Polished means edited.
Want to know how many drafts the #WhoIsTalyaNightingale manuscript underwent before I deemed it ready for querying?
I completed FIVE. FULL. DRAFTS of just ONE story. A story that is probably going to undergo MORE revisions before it becomes an actual book.
While I AM a perfectionist, it’s really not.
But in order to get from Draft One to Draft Five, I took breaks.
And you should too.
So, click the Continue Reading button for four reasons why taking breaks between edits of your manuscript is CRUCIAL to your success as a writer.
1 You Can’t See The Errors
Trust me, you can’t.
You’ve been reading and re-reading the same words over and over (see the edit-worthy redundancy in this sentence, which yes, is intentional), so it’s literally impossible for you to see the errors that are DEFINITELY lurking within your sentences.
And Spell Check and Grammar Check aren’t going to catch everything.
They’re not going to see that you wrote ‘my’ when you should have written ‘by’, or that ‘the’ should be ‘she’ or *shudders* that there’s an issue with ‘there’, ‘their’, and ‘they’re’ or no one’s favorite ‘your’ and ‘you’re’.
It’s a computer program, so it’s not going to see your context or intent within your words and sentences. A human eye is CRUCIAL to editing.
Even in my old job, I’d take a break between writing and posting a press release so that, before I did post it, I could go through one final read-through (one of many) before I put it up for the world to see and potentially make fun of.
The last thing you want is a blatant error in a headline that hundreds or even thousands of people are going to see and laugh at. Especially if you don’t catch it for a few hours.
So take a step back, a weekend, a week, or even more (seriously, take four weeks and do something else) and take your time before you go back into your manuscript.
2 You Have Plot Holes
You do, I do, we all do.
Just like those pesky spelling and grammar issues from Point One, your plot has issues too. You can’t see them, because (as I’ve been saying), you’re way too close to your work.
Take your time away from your manuscript so that when you DO go back through it with a more critical eye, you will be able to see where you went wrong. You’ll see where you wrote your character into a corner and the way they get out of it just doesn’t make sense, or where your foreshadowing was a little TOO on the nose and that secret you wanted to save for the climax was revealed in the opening acts, or where your protagonist has done something that, with time, you realize is not actually a part of their character.
Or worse, you have something that you thought you resolved, but—SPOILER ALERT—you definitely have NOT resolved it.
3 You Need Time To Think About The Scenes You Need To Flesh Out
#FunFact: I have never written a perfect fight scene on the first try.
Of course, that shouldn’t BE a fun fact, because I totally wrote 2,000 words about how I think writing fight scenes are can be traumatic, featuring tips on how they can also not be that. You can read my rambles on the matter HERE.
The thing about your first draft as that it serves as the structure to your story. If you’re the kind of person who’s inclined to outline before you start writing (which I am NOT, and more on Planning vs. Pantsing another day), then your first draft is what we can consider to be Outline 2.0.
It’s what you prepped before you opened that fresh Word Document, but it’s not COMPLETELY there. There are still gaps that you can go back in and pill once you’ve taken time away from the piece and are ready to go in and flesh out scenes, tweak dialogue, adjust your characterizations, etc.
This is one of the most crucial parts to taking your manuscript from a pile of words with some plot to an actual, cohesive story.
4 Your Draft Just Isn’t Agent Ready Yet
Hard truth time:
Like I said in the intro, your manuscript is not remotely ready for an agent’s potential perusal. I’ve said that and I keep saying this because it’s super true.
Sure, you’ve been working on it for months and months and months (or just A month, and more on that in a minute), and you’re so freaking proud of what you’ve done, but NO ONE EVER WRITES A PERFECT FIRST DRAFT.
Or even a second draft.
Hell, even a completed third-draft still needs work, and I’m not just saying that because I’m a massive perfectionist when it comes to my personal work.
You have to be a perfectionist.
And perfection takes time.
One thing I thought a lot about when I was going through the fifth draft of my manuscript, last November, were the posts that agents I followed on Twitter were putting up as NaNoWriMo was finishing. A LOT of them were posting about how much they love NaNoWriMo, but they do NOT want to see freshly-finished NaNo drafts.
And they’re right.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s an awesome accomplishment (I’ve done it before, and for more on that, check out 5 Tips For Writing (And Finishing!) Your Novel. Writing 50,000 words or more in just one month (one that happened to be one of the busiest in my old job) was definitely a challenge and definitely awesome to complete, but my manuscript was not ready by the end off it.
If you’ve taken on the challenge of completing a piece during NaNoWriMo, take December off. Close out of the Word Document, put the notebook away in a drawer in a room you don’t go into very often in your house, and take a break. It’s December, which is full of holidays, so enjoy them.
And then come January, you can go back into your manuscript with a fresh eye, ready to edit and flesh it out and make it perfect.
Especially if you’re serious about your work and want it to be ready for the scrutiny that comes not just with finding an agent, but also with having your potential future agent pitch it to editors at publishing companies.