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writing process: vacation writer-style

May 1, 2010

5. Vacation writer-style:

After I complete the first draft of a story, I put the manuscript aside and don’t look at it for about four weeks. I need that time to get some critical distance and to switch from writing into rewriting/editing mode.


This is usually my time to catch up on my mile-long reading list. I always try not to read too much while I’m actively writing the first draft. Reading takes time away from writing, and I also don’t want to be influenced by another writer’s style.

Sometimes, I use this time to do a little more research that I know I’ll need for the second draft.

This time, I participated in half a dozen online writers’ workshops. I have never done that before, so it was interesting. More about that in a later post.

So, the writers among you, do you take “time off” after you finish the first draft of a novel too?

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12 comments

  1. yes, I do time off, on just about everything I write. Research is always good but it always, always gives me time to think about how the characters are interacting. Also, did I say what I wanted to say and what else is there to add? Does the story progress as I wanted it to? Usually the final product is a long way from the first draft.


  2. I’m a BIG believer in allowing manuscripts to rest once you’ve completed them.

    Welcome Home was completed in the fall of 2006. I didn’t look at it again (seriously) until early spring of 2008.

    Out of the Past was my National Novel Writing Month winner in November of 2008. It “vacationed” without me until summer off 2009.

    The novel I’m working on now, has been written in bits and pieces over the course of the past three years (saga that covers 50 years). Don’t know if I’ll finish it this go-round or not or if it will take another vacation.

    I even have short stories tucked away for me to go back to and edit, re-write, or trash.

    As you can see, I tend to write erratically. I seldom finish a novel without taking breaks (sometimes extended) from it and then going back to complete it. Part of that is adult attention deficit disorder and part of it is life in general.


  3. I let manuscripts rest, and move on to other fully unrelated things, before coming back to something for edits. If I can get an editing job on something completely outside my project’s genre, that’s great. Or I get wrapped up in something in my family life. I don’t often manage a vacation away from my work-day life, but “bumming” with a day at the beach, or rereading favorite books, or watching a line up of favorite movies, is a quick recharger.

    Redirecting to something completely non-writerly, or at least off my own genre, makes me forget writing the first draft — almost completely. When I get back to the editing, my editor’s cap is able to be firmly in place, and my writer-self isn’t offended when I’m cutting and cleaning.

    Breaks are vital, IMHO. If a writer is constantly taking up new writing projects without break, I tend to think their “living” gets stale, and they eventually don’t have much to say, except to circle on the same concepts, or — I dread reading these — the writer who turns to characters who are writers. Ugh.

    IMHO, get a little life under your belt between stories, and your stories will have life too.


  4. True, Lara. It’s important not just to take a break between drafts of the same story, but to also take some time off between novels. Otherwise, all novels and all characters begin to sound alike.


  5. This is quite different than what I expected as a non-writer. But all your explanations make perfect sense.


  6. Well, a good friend of mine who is not a writer but an avid reader told me yesterday (and I quote): Writers should be chained to their computer in the basement and only get food when they turn out enough words a day.”

    Apparently, she felt a bit grumpy about her favorite writers not working fast enough 😉


  7. I like your friend.


    • Jae, I’m sorry your friend said that to you. Even if it was in jest, it’s suggesting an entitlement, a demand that creativity be at her service.

      Eventually she’ll be saying “these all sound the same” and wondering why her favorite authors burned out and aren’t producing a single word anymore.

      I said that a few years ago about half a dozen writers, and they continue to churn out stories that I won’t read beyond the first few lines — always hoping, but always disappointed. They all sound the same, and spin over the same lives and issues with slightly different names. Or God forbid, even the same characters rehashing the same arguments, spinning, and not growing.


      • Lara,

        we actually discussed just that when I talked to my friend. My friend understands that a writer is not a piano player in a lounge, taking requests (I actually threatened to make her wear a T-shirt with that quote). One of her favorite writers just released book # 5 in her series, and it’s getting weaker and weaker. We both agreed that if you produce more than one book a year, you’re not doing yourself or your readers any favor. Even one book a year might be too much.

        Good writing takes time. I know that. Every writer knows it. My friend knows it too.

        So when she tells me to write faster (which she doesn’t actually do, unless she is joking), I take it to mean “I love reading your stuff” and not “type faster.”


      • I should have put a smiley face after my comment, since as Jae pointed out, it was meant to say “I love reading your stuff” and not “type faster.” Quality over quantity.


  8. I’m glad your friend was mostly joking. There are a lot of readers out there who are not.


    • My friend would love to have more books of her favorite authors. But she knows the price she would have to pay is just too high. I know she would take quality over quantity any time.



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