Let It Simmer


Leaving a manuscript alone for any length of time is good.  Hours, days, weeks, even months, can be helpful.  Stephen King says to put your work away for several months, which, at least for me, seems almost unimaginable.  At this point however, I’m letting the current WIP simmer.  I’m leaving it alone like a pot on the stove, set to low and left to bubble and stew while I have a few folks eyeballing it.

Funny thing is, since I decided to do that, I’ve opened it up a couple of times, and I’ve immediately spotted something that needs to be fixed, and admittedly, I fixed what I saw, before I closed it down again – even though I wanted to pick and poke at it.

I feel like I’m in limbo because I had a routine, a way of working on it each day and because I’m not doing that, I don’t feel like I’m being productive.  Just the other day I went out in the yard on one of those upper ninety, humid sort of days and trimmed the hedges for about four hours.  That didn’t  feel as satisfying as writing a good solid paragraph.  I baked yeast rolls, two custard pies, and cooked a couple of big meals, and still, the feeling of having wasted time was there.  None of those things gave me that same sense of accomplishment.

I started doing some research for the next book, and before an hour was up, I found myself off track, reading about something totally unrelated to that next project.  It’s almost as if I’ve lost focus – even if only temporary – all because I know there is more work to do on the current ms, and although I’ve given myself strict instructions to leave it alone, I wonder just how long it can last.

As of today, it’s been two weeks since I worked on my story.  TWO WEEKS.  That’s all, and I feel like it’s been two months.  I’m antsy, twitchy, kind of nervous acting, really, and probably a pain in the butt to be around.  My  mind isn’t here, it’s there, in the story.  I miss my characters, the setting, their world.  I can’t wait to get back into it.

What’s the longest stretch of time you’ve gone without touching your manuscript?

 

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17 Comments

I don’t let them simmer that long; I’m too impatient. But if you can get yourself tucked into something new while the previous thing is on the back burner, I think that’s the best distraction. My problem (and it sounds like yours, too) is that I’m not ready with the next thing for a few months at least. So it’s hard to keep up the momentum.

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    Exactly…I think b/c I’ve settled into this new genre – the stories don’t come as easily. At all. I have my setting… as mentioned before – but absolutely no idea what to write about.

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What’s the longest stretch of time you’ve gone without touching your manuscript?
20 years. When I went back in all the dreams I had for it came back. It was sort of like meeting up with a high school sweetheart at the 20th reunion.
Sometimes remembering is not enough.
Funny how back then, I never thought about how I’d grow away from something I once loved so very much. I knew it was flawed, I knew it needed work but I just didn’t have the energy or the know how then. Now I don’t have the interest. My old book and my old flame, some dreams are meant to go cold.

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I’m simmering myself right now, with a limping blue-screening laptop, the first novel out on (well, a few … did I mention the laptop?) queries, and the second novel at a standstill. It’s killing me softly, but I *am* trying to concentrate on productivity in my job and at home and forgive myself for not getting to it on the WIP. Forgive and not forget. And try to tell myself nobody’s judging me for failing to churn out x-number-of-words per day …

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    Geez, been there, done that, – not too long ago – and I flipped out. My laptop was threatening me with that spooky window – you know the one – about a hard disk failure. YIKES. And queries to boot? And a second novel that’s gone AWOL – it’s all sounding oh so familiar.

    You’ll get there. It’s hard not to worry and me saying “don’t worry!” would only make you worry – 🙂 BUT, all of it will straighten out. Maybe not as quick as you’d like, but it will. Word counts get me too, and that’s when I know I need to chill out a bit…and give myself a break. You’ve got a lot going on…it’ll get better.

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      I have the nastiest habit of not letting time-going-by get to me… perhaps *enough* … I could do with a bit more concern, most likely! But it’s funny, and most intriguing, watching the way things are unfolding in life, around this silly set of circumstances I like to think are unique and important … 🙂

      I have a lot going on – and even more to be grateful for.

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I tend to start novels before I know enough to write them. So I get to 5000 words or so, and don’t know what to do, and move onto something else. Usually for a year or two. Or three in one case, and counting..

To give you perspective on how I work, I only do three drafts. Proofreading and nitpicking aren’t counted as drafts — we all do that stuff, but many people count them as a draft. They’re really just us wasting our time.
So, I currently have one 80K completed first draft, which has been sitting for maybe a year untouched. It’s he best thing I’ve written, too. But I’ve since written another 80K book (2nd draft completed now) with those characters which predates it, and the original will become Book Three in a series — so obviously, it will need changes once the others are written.

I’m now preferring to write complete shitty first drafts while letting books rest. That way, every book gets the time it needs for my eyes and brain to freshen for it, and I never feel like I’m not accomplishing anything. It’s all coming together nicely.

Just start something new. Even if you only get 5000 or 10,000 words done before going back to your book, you’ll feel focused, not antsy, and that 5000 words will simmer for you while you finish, and be waiting, and you’ll breeze through your next book. Just try it. It’s made a huge difference for me.

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    This is a great way to work! I love it. If only I can quit nitpicking. I actually have about 7500 of another stuck somewhere. And the idea for this *new* project percolating – different than simmering. 🙂 Bottom line, this is good advice – I’ll have to give it a go on the new one and get that first 5K down. By then I should have some idea of feedback from all those readers…and I’ll be diverting to the current – again. But when I’m ready to get to the “shitty” 5K – it would be interesting to see what I think then…now I’m curious to try.

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Similarly, my first book was in the drawer and then out again over the course of about ten years – but my focus wasn’t on writing then, it was on keeping the job I had. Funny how that job wrapped up the same month I signed on with John Talbot. Talk about perfect timing.

I notice typos/errors when I print anything out – every time. Just that view of the pages makes them stick out like I bolded the words. Weird.

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It’s like a rest day for a runner.

I’ve left some things languish for years, but that wasn’t by design. Then I picked up what I thought was dead and breathed life into it. Deliberate rest? Weeks mostly.

As for spotting things that need fixing, I’ve found if I physically move myself and my document to a different location (the local library, a hotel room when I’m traveling) I find all kinds of typos and word choice errors that I was apparently no longer seeing in my routine location.

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I’ve gone a year at a time, but that was in grad school when I was a full time student and working three part time jobs. Talk about no time. More recently, about two months. And boy did I need the break. When I came back to it, I noticed how much it needed yet another rewrite, which I’m currently undertaking. Sigh. A writer’s job is never done.

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    SO true. When I typed THE END, a couple of people said, “so, you’re done!” And I said, “uh, not really.” To which they gave me a weird look. They are non-writers though – only the ones slogging away at edits/revisions/re-writes know.

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      Absolutely. I just finished a massive re-write a couple months ago, and now I feel another one coming on… for the same book! I’m so frustrate by that, but oh well! The re-writes always make my book better in the end, so although frustrating, they’re necessary. I feel your pain.

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      I’m probably not far behind you…I feel like I’ve done quite a bit “along the way,” but as I’ve heard before, until I’m only moving comma’s around, there’s always room for improvements. Congrats on not only finishing, but getting thru a re-write – even though you don’t feel it’s finished – you’re right – it only makes for a better/tighter story.

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