Hot Potato: Let that Manuscript Cool Off

You type, “The End.”
Then, you write a fast letter to an editor and send off a couple sample chapters.

You forgot one thing. That manuscript needs to cool off before you send it out.
It is the single, hardest thing for me to do. I do not want to wait and besides that, I KNOW the revisions I just did are fantastic and the editor will be dying to read it. Yes? No.

Sadly, I send out material before it is ready. When I wait and read something even a week later, I find so many more things to revise.

Repeated words. Subconsciously, I fall in love with this word or that and it repeated endlessly. I don’t notice this unless the mss has rested a while and then, the words stick out like pimples. My goal is to cut that repetition to a single instance. After all, a single pimple isn’t bad, it’s the allover pimple face that’s bad. Two words I constantly overuse are bit and whirl: She whirled around a bit before settling down. Not bad, until she whirls 13.5 times per chapter.

Spelling and Grammar. OK, all you grammar witches. I know you are out there, because you email me all the time. My blog posts tend to be more off the cuff and I pay for it in humiliation every time a Grammar Witch reports in. (NOTE: I LOVE you, Grammar Witch. I am yours to command. I just WISH I had your eye for detail.) My remedial Grammar Witch glasses only work well when a mss has cooled off a while. Then, things pop out at me.

Darcy, sporting slightly askew Grammar Witch Glasses.

Pacing. I am much better at spotting pacing problems after something has cooled off. It is the places where I–the author–lose interest and start skimming. Oh, that’s bad when I can’t even keep myself entertained. On the other hand, I often find places to slow down, to zoom in and let the reader feel more emotions. Either way, I need the story to sit a while before I can spot these.

Vague, Unsettled Dissatisfaction. It’s hard to say exactly what this is, because it varies with each manuscript. Just–something is wrong. Off. I can usually pinpoint what that is and fix it. But when I can’t do that immediately, I start analysis, such as the Shrunken Manuscript or using other tools from Novel Metamorphosis. Because I must find and fix whatever it is. Usually–there’s something and it’s not a minor something. I just can’t see it right away.

What about you? Do you let a manuscript cool off?

7 thoughts on “0

  1. Hello Darcy,

    The expression, “Hot off the press,” shouldn’t be ignored, especially, I’ve learned, when it comes to anything that I write. My manuscript seriously cooled off and when I revisited it, I realized that it still needed to be baked. So I baked it some more. It cooled off. I gave it a poke and it’s still not done. The process continues.

    I, too, seemed to be in love with one word. I used the word “just” about 50 times throughout my manuscript. Crazy. Now it’s gone!

    Thank you so much for your helpful, funny, and genius posts.

    Heather Villa

  2. I know the rule. I force myself to send a picture book manuscript out to readers to slow the process at least a bit. But sometimes I can’t even wait for the readers to reply. Sometimes impatience and excitement pull my virtual manuscript from my fingers and send it flying out into cyberspace. It’s easier to let a novel cool because it takes so long to write it in the first place. It’s more obvious there are going to be big things that need revision….

  3. Such valuable advice. It’s so much easier to distance yourself from your work and give it the critical read it needs if you’re looking at it with fresh eyes!

    I always give all my projects lengthy “cooldown” time now. Several months if I can — at that point it’s almost like I’m reading someone else’s words instead of my own.

  4. Oh, Carissa: You are so good! I hate these cooldown times, even knowing they are valuable. A couple months on each project? I can barely stand a month. Good for you!

  5. Judith:
    I know what you mean. I send a pb to readers, and before an hour has passed, I’ve done three more revisions and must tell those readers to wait. I am SO impatient!

  6. Hi Darcy,
    Allowing my work to simmer was the first, big lesson to learn when I began writing. It took a few rejections to realize my writing was not as great as I thought it was and it needed more work. Even though it is difficult waiting, it always pays off taking a “fresh” look at it days later…and again several days after that!

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