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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
When I first started writing I read a lot of advice about writing, editing, etc and one of the things that stuck with me was the advice to put a manuscript away and leave it for a while before rereading it.

I still do this and will be a first draft to one side (in an electronic drawer these days) for at least 3 weeks before I look at it again.

I find that it helps me see it with new eyes and in the meantime I have often mulled over the ideas and have a better feeling for the story.

I have seen on here the speed at which some people are producing their ebooks from finishing the first draft to publishing it and I'm surprised.  Your first draft can never be the best the book is going to be - there is always going to be room for improvement.

How long do you leave first drafts?

Mike

 

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I don't.

Yeah, people recommend doing it, but it doesn't work for me. I don't distance myself from my work any more after a month than I do after eight hours.

And you'd be surprised how clean some people can make a first draft. Rewriting something doesn't always make it better. Dean Wesley Smith did a great post on rewriting.
 

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mikelewis said:
I have seen on here the speed at which some people are producing their ebooks from finishing the first draft to publishing it and I'm surprised. Your first draft can never be the best the book is going to be - there is always going to be room for improvement.
If he were still alive, I'd tell you to go say that to Robert Heinlein. :D He often sent his first draft straight to the publisher, he said. I can see the possibility of doing exactly that, if a writer had the whole story in their head ready to go, then could type it out in a couple of weeks, editing as they went. Much, much easier to do these days than in the age of the typewriter, but requiring a lot of discipline and skill.

mikelewis said:
How long do you leave first drafts?
Not long. Days, if that. Sometimes, though, I edit one part as I'm writing another. That said, I might not be the best touchstone... I've been writing (manuals) professionally for around a decade, now. There's a knack to viewing a manuscript with 'new' eyes that is possible to learn... eventually. Is it as good as leaving it for months? No, probably not. But there's a point at which 'good enough' is actually good enough. Anyone expecting to put out a perfect book - or one that they'll never itch to change on re-reading - is in for a surprise, in my opinion. :D
 

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I think it depends on your definition of a first draft. I tend to edit very thoroughly as I go along so by the time I get to the end, the book is quite tight - hopefully. I have crit partners reading with me as I go along. What I should do then, once it's finished, is leave it for a couple of weeks and then go through it. Sometimes I just want to send it off!! But if you write fast and just get your ideas down, I do think it's a good idea to leave a story for a while, let it percolate before you look at it again.
 

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We've read somewhere to give it a good six weeks. Personally, we think more like a month. That way it's fresh when you see it again. It is a good idea to take a vacation from your draft. Tons of grammatical errors show up after a break, and you might have a new take on a scene you originally struggled with.
 

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I always try to do what Stephen King suggests and leave it for six weeks, but I can never wait that long! So, the answer to your question is, as long as I can stand it. Because, honestly, rereading my book that first time is one of my very favorite things about the writing process.
 

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Depends what it is. If it's a short story, I'll give it a day or two. If it's a novel, I may take some time just to have a vacation, but for the most part I dive right back in. By the time I've written a novel through to the end, the beginning is already fresh and unfamiliar.

Mind you, this is just for a polish pass before anything goes out to beta readers or editors. That process takes enough time that everything's new again when I get it back.
 

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I have my own portable electroshock machine, and once I finish a novel, I lay out the manuscript, hook myself up to the machine and give myself a nice hard jolt.  When I regain consciousness, I pick up the manuscript and say, "What's this?  A Novel?  Did I write this?"  and then begin proofreading.



:p
 

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I try to leave it at least a week. Usually it's until the mood hits me to get back into it. The sequel to my novel Perpetual Love has been untouched for the past month. Yesterday I picked it up and started re-reading and tightening where necessary. I don't think a time line should be set in stone, it should be left to your gut.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Interesting replies - thanks.

I agree that it probably depends on whether you edit as you go or write blindly to the end in a rush.

I always have a problem getting crits from one writer in one of my writing groups because she does rolling edits so when she finishes something it was been rewritten a number of times and is finished (which is good because she ALWAYS misses deadlines).  She finds my rather rough first drafts quite difficult to critique.

Mike


 

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mikelewis said:
She finds my rather rough first drafts quite difficult to critique.
I don't blame her. It annoys me when people in my writing group submit rough first drafts. What am I supposed to be critiquing? The idea they came up with? Am I supposed to spend my time finding problems they know are in there?
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
swolf said:
I don't blame her. It annoys me when people in my writing group submit rough first drafts. What am I supposed to be critiquing? The idea they came up with? Am I supposed to spend my time finding problems they know are in there?
Okay, by rough first drafts I mean unpolished second drafts really and everyone else in the group puts in similar pieces - the critique is looking at whether the piece works at all on a plot and character level more than at a sentence level, that comes later.

Mike
 

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I do my macro-edits immediately after finishing a story wherein I'll add or delete (mostly add; I focus almost solely on plot my first go 'round) scenes, rearrange them to fit where they should, then do a quick edit before setting it aside.

A week is usually enough to see any problems, time enough for me to clear my head regarding a draft's awesomeness (which, quite frankly, I don't think of my stories; I love them but know there's always room for improvement IMO). I try to outline beforehand so that my plot is set and ready, then focus on characterization, setting and prose the second pass. However, I'll admit an outside eye is crucial: whether it's an editor, CP or a beta, having an independent set of eyes to find flaws, points of incongruity, or parts that need further explaining can make the difference between mediocre and fabulous. :)
 

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RM Prioleau said:
I've heard/read many places that you should set your manuscript aside for at least 6 months before picking it back up again.
I've tried this before but it always end the same: the fire is gone and I'm itching to move on to the next pretty-shiny (and thus am primed for new-story-idea distractions). Obviously YMMV but for me I'd rather get it all done in a few months time and get it out. The urge to tweak is hard to resist and you may be forever working on the same story instead of getting it out to John Q. Public.
 

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Ladyeclectic said:
I've tried this before but it always end the same: the fire is gone and I'm itching to move on to the next pretty-shiny (and thus am primed for new-story-idea distractions). Obviously YMMV but for me I'd rather get it all done in a few months time and get it out. The urge to tweak is hard to resist and you may be forever working on the same story instead of getting it out to John Q. Public.
That's happened to me, too. But the good thing about that is that you have a full-length story from start to finish that you can alwasy come back to should you ever run into a stumbling block for some of your newer stories. Or sometimes you just want to go back and finish some old projects you started. It's never a waste of time/effort for you to do this.

But yeah, you should refrain from tweaking while writing your first draft (unless you have an idea that you are absolutely sure will erase from your mind if you don't get it out on paper). That's the point of a first/rough draft. :)
 

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I don't. I could let it set for 10 years and it would still be something *I* wrote. There may be people that works for. It doesn't for me.

I do other things to change the look such as change the font and print it out. Let it sit? Not at all.

Edit: The same with the advice not to edit while writing. That may work for some people but not for everyone. I complete a very polished first draft and I go back and polish what I wrote the day before in order to get back into the flow of the story. It works for me.

It's always a mistake to assume that the same thing works for everyone.
 
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