Step Away From The Book

I’ve spent January working on a big project for The Day Job, watching the playoffs, rejoicing that the third season of Shameless is underway, learning to cook a few new things, visiting the library, discovering “The Following” and “Continuum,” writing and reading blogs, hanging out at the pub, and playing The Sims 3.

After concluding my book in December, I walked away and left it simmering on the backburner.

This is sounding like another case of “here she goes. Blocked and overworked and bitchin’ about it again.” Nope. Hold the phones. This time, the hiatus has been completely intentional.

I’ve spent the last year of my life hanging out with a dead guy who likes to run around naked. You can understand how I might need to step away and clear my head. But the truth is, I’d have taken this hiatus whether my book featured a streaking ghost or algebra equations (Yikes …who am I kidding? If it had been about algebra equations I’d be hiding under my bed swigging from a bottle of vodka.).

After “The Writing” comes the editing and rewriting. Let’s face it. If we compare writing a book to a journey, the “building the story” part is driving on a stretch of open, undiscovered and often beautiful highway. The “editing and rewriting” part is chugging along in rush-hour traffic.  Knowing this, I figured I needed a little time to recover from the burnout I inflicted on myself in 2012.

Me, my naked dead guy and the rest of my novel will reunite for part 2 of our journey the first full week in February.

I do feel rested, clear-headed and ready to go. Taking a “book break” has done wonders for me. I am energized again. I loved writing my book. But when I was finished, my brain was fried. If I’d been asked to take a picture that represented by mental state, I would have found a barren tree under a cold gray sky. My mind was stripped bare not by the book, but by fitting writing it into the rest of my life.

If asked to take a picture of where I’m at today, it would look like this:

Strength and beauty

Strength and beauty

The tree itself represents the strong and solid roots I have put into the story so far. The brilliant fall leaves and the clear blue sky represent a sharper eye, a clearer head and the fresh perspective that come with time away.

Furthermore, I discovered that I MISSED my characters while we were apart. They’ve taken up a lot of real estate in my brain over the last year-plus. As happens in real life, a  temporary separation showed me just how much they mean to me. When we spend every day with someone we love, we take them for granted. Or even worse, they start to irk us a little. Absence does make the heart grow fonder.

Finally, I am ready to be honest about my brainchild. As I was writing, I had many “damn, I’m good” moments. I laughed out loud over some scenes and cried over others.

Yes, I think my story is “that damn good.” But I also know I’m biased, as a mother may be about her child. Little Johnny is a great athlete, a straight-A student, and respectful to his elders. So when the teacher calls to say he’s being disruptive in class, Mom’s first reaction is “oh, hell no. Not MY boy.”

Like Little Johnny, my book has flaws to be recognized and fixed. Instead of being the book-momma who overlooks bad writing behavior, I want to correct those flaws. With fresh perspective in editing, my good book can be great.

What about you? When you finish the first draft of a manuscript, do you remove yourself from it for a bit or dive right in to the editing process? Do you work on other writing projects while editing, or do you focus in like a laser until the project at hand is done? As I embark on the editing process, I’m eager to hear about your experiences!

About hawleywood40

Writer, Steelers Fan in Baltimore, Frequent Visitor to the Shot Fairy
This entry was posted in Creativity, Uncategorized, Writing, Writing A Novel and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Step Away From The Book

  1. The Hook says:

    The pic – and your soul – are very beautiful.

  2. Yes, yes, yes. I took a good two weeks away from my draft manuscript and did other things I enjoyed doing just to clear my head. I needed a fresh pair of eyes to tackle the editing process. It’s not only catching the awkward sentences and typos, but its asking tough questions like, “Is this part really necessary?” or “Do I need something more here?”

    I didn’t work on anything else while editing. I needed all my brain cells rowing in the same direction. Editing is both tedious and creative. You’ll read something you forgot you wrote and say, “Hey, that’s really good! I wrote that?” Or maybe you’ll say something else. But I needed to focus like a laser beam. Of course, that’s me. I can’t multi-task.

    Good luck with Phase 2. How bad can it be? You’ll be spending lots of time with a naked man, dead though he is… 😉

    • hawleywood40 says:

      Lorna, I’m learning that I’m not very good at multi-tasking either. I think that while editing (which I expect to realistically take a few months) I may also work on trying to find homes for my 3 homeless shorts stories as opportunities arise, and I’ll write blog posts. But no new stories, fiction, or non-blog stuff unless I see a call for something short that SO matches an idea in my head that I just can’t say no. I multi-task so much at work that doing it in my personally life seems to “chore-like,” and the last thing I wanna do is lose my passion for all this!

      • Good plan! I’ve got two shorts that I’m submitting to the Writer’s Digest Annual Contest. Good practice. Deadline is in May and good chances of recognition (10 genres and the recognize the top 100 in each category). My first year I made in the top 100. Not as lucky the 2nd time, maybe I’ll get lucky again this 3rd time…

  3. l'empress says:

    Well, as you know, I don’t write anything long. But I usually leave something that’s supposedly finished until it’s not at the front of my brain. It’s hard enough to edit one’s own work. If that work is fresh, you know what it’s supposed to say. You not only miss little things, like misspellings or a word left out; you are apt to forget a logical step. (I go back and find pronouns for a noun I never specified…)

    • hawleywood40 says:

      Actually, when I think about it I’m like you with my shorter pieces too, l’empress. Even blog posts – unless they’re time-sensitive – sit for a day or so after I write them so I can give them a fresh-eyed read-over before kicking them out into the world.

  4. Kris says:

    I’m so worried that my point will be lost, that I immediately “edit” my work into something I never would’ve written…and that’s not always in a good way.
    I’ve recently started using my blog to tuck things away for editing later. I’m hoping for the same rejuvination that you’ve experienced. Good luck in February!

    • hawleywood40 says:

      I think using your blog in this way is a great approach, Kris! Please stop back and let me know if that helps you get that “re-energized” feeling. I know what you mean about editing your work into something that loses your voice along the way. I have done that before and that’s one of the reasons I ‘incubate” my stuff now before going into the fix-it phase.

  5. I have to put my manuscript aside for a few weeks when my first draft is finished.
    I wish you the best with your editing phase. I found editing easier than the first draft, but a lot of writers find it the other way around. I’m very curious about your naked man. I guess I’ll just have to be patient…

    • hawleywood40 says:

      It sounds like your approach (a few week break) is similar to what I think will work best for me, Diana! I think I will find editing easier too – at least, that is what I’ve found with my shorter works. And I can’t wait to bring my naked man out into the world … having a dead streaker all to yourself gets old after a while : )!

  6. gemmahawdon says:

    Hi Hawley. I agree with you, I think it’s important to let it sit for a while and go back with fresh eyes – try to read it as an outsider would for the first time. I also walk away when I’ve hit a wall – sometimes just for a walk which seems to allow my mind to think clearly again and work out the problem. Good luck with your editing 😉

  7. Hi Hawley – realised I left the last message with the wrong sign-in. I’m having all sorts of problems since switching to self hosting!! Can you let me know if you are still receiving my posts as quite a few of my followers are having problems? Thank you!

  8. Hi Hawley- I think you are wise to give yourself a break before diving back in to the edits. Sometimes I will let it sit 3 or 6 months and then when I read it again, I realize certain elements are really good and others just need to go. Good luck with your editing- I have found it to be hard work but also very rewarding.

    • hawleywood40 says:

      I am excited about getting started this week. I am going to go at a semi-relaxed pace, taking my time and being thorough but also trying to enjoy what I’m doing. I expected the “realizing what needs to go” part will be the toughest challenge for me, but something I definitely need to learn to manage well!

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