Five Reasons Why You Should Wait Before Revising

No matter how eager you are to jump in and start revising that first draft the day after you’ve written it, it always pays to step back and wait. Here’s why:

1. Distance yourself from the work. Seeing our work with objective eyes only occurs once we’ve put that story away for a while. You want this objectivity so it won’t feel so much like you’re ripping out parts of your soul as you revise – although revision can be a painful process at every step of the way.

2. Time to get started on a different project. Writing or revising something else can keep your mind off your recently finished project. With your finished work staying in your subconscious mind, you can often come up with solutions to the problems in it unconsciously. Two projects can spawn ideas for each other.

3. You might damage the story. Revising too soon could be devastating. You might read through your whole novel the day after you’ve written it and think it’s brilliant – which is untrue. No rough draft is brilliant. Or you may read it all the way through and become disgusted with how bad it is – and never give it another chance again, even though it may deserve another draft.

4. You might get burned out. It’s always good to take a break from anything you’ve been working on for a significant period of time. Use the time away from your work to rest, relax, and clear your head. It’s never good to work too hard.

5. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Yes, it’s a cliche, but it’s true. You may fall even more in love with your story when you’ve been mentally and physically away from it for a while. This happens to me. I end up missing my characters and the story so much that I’m excited to go back to them after giving them a rest.

15 thoughts on “Five Reasons Why You Should Wait Before Revising

  1. Good post.

    Any thoughts on what to do when you’re very early into a first draft and suddenly see an entirely different way to set it up? (go back and rewrite the whole of it then?). I’m so early in…but it would literally be re-writing (not just adding and subtracting).

    Also, when you edit/revise, do you find yourself rewriting nearly the whole thing (or is a matter of cutting and adding for you?).

    (p.s. I like the snow falling on the screen).

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    1. I usually stop and write it the way I think it would be best. And when I revise, I do usually end up rewriting the entire thing a few times before I feel like it makes sense. Cutting and adding usually happens when I’m getting near the end of all the rewrites.

      And as for the snow, I have no idea how that got there. But it is nice. 🙂

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  2. This is so true. If I let my brain keep circling a rough draft over and over, one of two things will happen: I will keep missing its potential flaws and want to send it out before its ready, or I’ll get sick of it and never want to see it again. Beginning a new project in the meantime is a good way to disengage.

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  3. Thanks for the advice. I probably should stop where I’m to and jot down an outline of what it currently is and what I’m currently thinking would be better. Then I may have to go back to rewrite it all (I’m only about 5500 words, 1st draft), but it might have more direction.

    Maybe. I don’t want to suck the fun out of it either which outlines and redirections can do.

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    1. If outlining’s not your thing, then just jot down the ideas you have before you forget them and elaborate on them later. You don’t necessarily need an outline immediately.

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  4. Very apt post for me, since this is pretty much where I’m at with my WIP (the mystery story book), as I talked about on my blog. I think it’s about time for beta readers and working on something else for a while, because I’m getting a bit sick of reading and revising the same eleven stories. Time for a change, if only I could figure out which other project I should be working on…

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  5. I don’t always wait, but sometimes I do. I guess it depends on how I’m feeling about the story. If I’m burnt out, or out of ideas, I definitely wait. Often I’ll read a book on craft, or a craft workbook (again, droping the Donald Maass recommendation!), and just think about the MS for awhile.

    How long do you usually wait before revising?

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      1. WOW. You are definitely in it for the long game! I can see myself waiting a month, but not much longer.

        Ugh, I meant “dropping” instead of “droping” in my above comment.

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      2. I’m sort of planning on a year with my WIP, but we’ll see how it goes. I’ve been working on these stories for a few years now, and I think it’s time to get some distance and work on some other things for a while.

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