Put Your Manuscript in a Drawer

I didn’t want to do it. I swear. I’m in love with the whole thing–waking up, writing in my bathrobe, forgetting breakfast, writing some more…

And I did leave the house. I swear. I left to teach. To walk around the block. To hear chamber music.

And I always came back to the manuscript…and most often, gleefully.

So when I got home and finally put the thing into a drawer, well…I think I might have heard my manuscript scream.

But I had to do it. The love affair has to cool off. Or, as friend and author B.A. Goodjohn told me: “Of course you’re in love with the novel. That’s fine. But you have to wait until you’re not infatuated anymore. Wait until you’re not in love, but just loving it.” In other words, if I try to revise when I’m still in love with the work, I’ll only be patting around the edges and not really digging into the guts of the story. But if I wait until I love it like another person–someone I would be honest with because I cared, someone I would point out spinach to when it gets caught between their teeth–well, that’s a whole other story.

Which is exactly the point–to wait long enough until I can revise my way to a whole other story. It will be the story it’s been trying to be all along, of course, but I’m still figuring that out. The only way to speed this process up is to, ironically, slow down.

So here it is ladies and gents, my pledge to keep my hands off the novel for at least one month, possibly two. I should probably wait even longer than that, but I don’t think that’s possible for me. I don’t want it all to end. I can still hear it screaming. But if my older, wiser, more published friends have been telling me the truth all these years, then I have to do this. 

Into the drawer it goes…

Showing 3 comments
  • Bunny

    Good Girl! I'm flat-footing over mine after letting it sit in the drawer for four months. And it's better for the distance. Not in a "long-distance relationship" way (they never last) but in a "oh, my God, we havent seen each other for four months and not only do I still love you, I didn't sleep with any short stories or poems. Yay!" kind of way.

  • Lynn Lovegreen

    I have to put it away for a while before I can revise, see it in a fresh way. Otherwise, I see what I meant to write, not what's really on the paper (or screen).

  • stephanie thomas berry

    I do this with my poems, too. We are in love with our creations at first, and time gives us a little objectivity, a fresh eye. Some must sit for a very long time. That's probably easier to do with a poem than a novel, though. I can only imagine the momentum! The commitment!

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