The Insecure Writer’s Support Group is a real thing. It’s hosted by Alex Cavanaugh, with a rotating firmament of monthly co-hosts. This month’s cohosts are: Eva @ Lillicasplace, Crystal Collier, Sheena-kay Graham, Chemist Ken, LG Keltner, and Heather Gardner. Be sure to check out their websites, and sign up for next month, if it sounds like your thing, or if we sound like your crowd. The more, the merrier!
This month’s question is “Which writing rule do you wish you’d never heard?”
I’ve been thinking about that. I don’t really hate any of the writing rules I’ve heard, and nothing really stands out as being something that led me the wrong way. Nothing really wrong-wrong.
But, the one that stands out as a rule that needs more explanation is “Before you revise, set your manuscript aside for (a month, a year, some length of time), so you can look at it with fresh eyes.”
I don’t think that’s wrong.
But I do think that–as a beginning writer–I could have used more instructions about how to put a manuscript aside in a way that would actually help me look at the thing with fresh eyes.
After I wrote my first novel, I went through a phase where I felt like I’d done this amazing thing. This enormous thing. And I was proud of myself, but at the same time, there was a part of me that thought it was a one-time deal. That writing a novel was something so big, and so monumental I might never do it again. I barely believed I’d done it, in the first place.
And that first manuscript was THE manuscript. The ONLY manuscript.
I put it in the drawer, of course. Follow the rules, you know. But I wasn’t really setting it aside. I was putting the physical thing away, but the story itself kept running through my head. Parts of it, word-for-word.
I worked on that novel for a long time. And I kept putting it away when I got stuck, or when I knew I wasn’t being objective about it.
I never really got to the “Fresh Eyes” part of setting it aside. My mind always got hooked on this detail or that scene.
It’s not that “set it aside” isn’t good advice. It’s just that I didn’t really have the experience to take that advice. I didn’t know how.
I needed to have it spelled out for me. Set that manuscript aside, and go write another novel. And a bunch of short stories, and then, come back to it, when you’re excited about the next novel. Or the one after that. Come back, when it isn’t the ONLY novel, anymore. Come back when you have enough options to be objective. When “work on this” is really a choice, as opposed to “work on the only project you have.”
That would have saved me a lot of time.