By now, some of you, maybe most of you, are on summer break.
This means a lot more free time than you had while you were doing school. No more dreaded math tests, essays, or science quizzes.
I recently finished my first draft in Camp NaNoWriMo, and I made the resolution that I would wait a whole month before I started the next draft. But when I started summer break, I was bored. I wanted to be writing! Sure, I was busy absorbing every word of Jane Eyre (A book I would definitely recommend!), and had other books to read, as well as a novel to critique and one to beta, but I wanted to be working on my own project. And not starting at the end of May
I was impatient.
And this is the part of the post where I will present a question that every writer needs to ask themselves after finishing their first draft: “Does my novel really need a whole month to cool off?” A month has always been the standard. Almost every blog on writing says that you should wait at least a month, so that you can re-read your first draft with fresh eyes.
But I’m going to say something that might shock you: I’m not going to be re-reading my first draft.
I think in my post, “So… What’s Next?” I said that I was going to be making a chapter outline of my first draft, and then re-writing it for my second draft. That plan of mine still stands, although I’m not going to be re-reading the messiness I wrote in April.
- The plot is so jumbled and messed up in my first draft, I wouldn’t get a clear direction just by re-reading it. I switched from first person to third person at the end of my first chapter, and I started to write two different POVs in the beginning, only to drop that idea as I continued, leaving the two character’s stories unfinished.
- I don’t necessarily need to re-read the draft to make a chapter outline, I simply need to skim over the important parts of each chapter.
- So much of the plot is going to change anyway, that it will actually be a smoother process to write the second chapter outline than the first.
- Even though I’m going to start working on the novel starting May 14th, that doesn’t necessarily mean the writing begins just yet. I’m going to give myself three days to write the chapter outlines, and then I will start writing. Until then, though, I’m working on filling up a notebook with character and setting information, so that the writing process will go all the more smoother.
- The last reason re-reading the first draft seems pointless to me is because if you just scramble to put words on the page for the first draft, as I do, then a re-write is the only way to fix it, not just reading through and marking up with a read pen. The plot is going to change so much, and new characters are going to be added, while some are taken away, that the point of re-reading the first draft becomes more of a formality, rather than a necessity.
Now, here are some factors to help you decide whether you really need to wait a whole month for your novel to cool off, or if that’s just the accepted norm and rule that you can choose to ignore.
- Is your plot going to be changing a lot? Then you probably don’t need a whole month to re-write something that’s almost going to have a completely new story.
- Are you adding new subplots, characters, or POVs? If you answer yes, then you don’t need to wait a whole month.
And you might not even need a whole two weeks, like me. It all depends on you and your book, because I don’t think there is a certain amount of time that can apply as a one-size-fits-all sort of thing.
I honestly don’t even think I need a whole two weeks to wait for my book to “cool-off” so much as I needed the time to take a break.
I wrote feverishly through all of April, and I needed the time to rejuvenate all my writer-energy. I probably could’ve made do with a week, because that’s all the time it would’ve taken me to fill up my character and setting notebook. But with the vacation I just took and the things I had neglected during April, a whole two weeks gave me plenty of time to refresh.
Do you guys re-read your first drafts? How long do you wait for your novels to cool off? Tell me in the comments below!
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