Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Letting Your Story Simmer

I recently came across a wonderful post by Sangu Mandanna on Janice Hardy's blog, Give it Time, about the importance of letting a manuscript rest so you can come back to it with fresh eyes. It really resonated with me because it's exactly how LAST NIGHT IN GHOSTTOWN was written.

Not through planning or foresight, mind you, but simply through sheer dumb luck. Or more accurately, writer's block and a short attention span.

Requisite writing analogy: A story is like soup. If we don't give it time to simmer, it ends up bland and tasteless.

Writing LAST NIGHT spanned about three and half years, during which there were several gaps when I didn't write at all. Chaos in real life, a troublesome scene or section, or a new painting would distract me, and the manuscript would languish, sometimes for months at a time.

The longest gap was the last half of 2012. I'd been writing pretty steadily before that, but got stumped when the ending I'd planned for years fell flat on its face. Time for a break, I decided, with an art project that I expected to take about three months.

It took seven.

When I finally, finally looked at the manuscript again in early 2013 I discovered, much to my surprise, that it wasn't as bad as I thought. In fact, I actually liked it. Enjoyed rereading it, even.

This was far more than I'd ever expected.

And after a prolonged break, my mind was finally fresh enough to tackle that ending dispassionately. To see what the story needed, not what I thought it needed, and find a way to deliver.

So if there's anyone that's ever wondered if that "let it rest" advice is really all that important, I can vouch for it. Yes, it is important. Vital, even.

Do your story a favor, and let it simmer on its own for awhile. You'll be glad you did.

Just don't let it boil dry.


  1. darn. first comment disappeared :/

    Yesss! I was away from mine for about 3/4 months (various things in life managed to take my time). Once I returned to it, I was able to look at it with an objective pov. The time away helped to break the attachment with my ms so I could make better revisions.

    1. It really is amazing the difference a little distance can make when it comes to revisions.

      Thanks for stopping by! :)