3 Crucial Things YOU SKIP That RUIN Your Story

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your humble host
After completing the first draft of your story, the next big step is:

NOTHING.

Letting the manuscript rest is HUGE, at least to me. And it’s hard to do! Leave it alone? We writer types are constant tinkerers.

But

After doing so many critiques, I know to let my MS rest a while – and it’s like somebody else wrote it after I do. I can see almost all the fixes and do them. I can be objective. I CAN FORGET THAT I KNEW WHAT I MEANT BY WHAT I WROTE AND INSTEAD SEE WHAT’S ACTUALLY WRITTEN – and whether it makes sense to somebody who’s reading it and does not already know all the stuff going on in my head.

It’s a lot of work and it’s not a perfect system but it works for me.

I hear you. You’re going “Hmm…”

Allow me to explain.

With “Angel” I knew I needed to learn more about writing and adding emotion, etc., so I let it sit for over a year while I wrote other things. During that year, I improved a LOT as a writer so when I revisited Angel I could see all sorts of problems. Nothing life threatening, but the kind of stuff that takes it from a good story idea with a few good scenes and some interesting characters to a well told, amazing ride that readers won’t forget.

Taking a month to do its second draft allowed me to spend the time necessary to get it closer to where it needed to be. It really was like reading somebody else’s book; I’d forgotten some stuff I put in there but more importantly I ADDED the stuff I knew needed to go in: it was too tell-y; it became more show-y. More emotional. Consistent tense. No head hopping POV. Now I will let Allison review it, make the changes she suggests, and send it to beta readers, and see what suggestions they have.

8 Steps You NEED To Take

  1. Write*
  2. Rest**
  3. Read again and revise
  4. Send to editor/trusted CP (Know what you do while they have it? Rest.)
  5. Revise
  6. Send to betas (Know what you do while they have it? REST!)
  7. Revise
  8. Publish

*That first “write” may contain several rewrites of selected sections as I go along. You know how we writer types are.

**This is the step too many people skip, myself included. This takes place after the first draft is completed, and your first draft should get completed in 3-4 months. Because it’s a first draft, not a completed manuscript. Give your self time to grow in the story.

How long do you let it rest?

As long as you can, but not less than a day for a chapter you want to review, a month for a completed first draft of the MS – although three months is better, possibly ideal. A year is probably too long.

Probably. Maybe not.

The three critical things you skip that ruin your story are the three times you should rest – but you don’t. Rookies keep tinkering. Stop. You wrote a good story. Go away for a while and enter weekly writing challenges or flesh out some ideas that you put on hold.

Set a date to return to your MS and then DO NOT LOOK AT IT until that date. That little bit of discipline will save you countless frustrating hours.

Why?

When we are writing, we know exactly what we mean as we put the words down. After a rest period, our engagement with the scene fades and we view it more like a first time reader – and we will see whether it was as awesome as we first thought.

  • Resting will help adjust the point of a scene and whether it needs to be included at all.
  • Resting will help you see the intensity of a scene the way a reader would, and
  • You WILL NOT see typos or poorly worded phrases, or at least not as many of them, until you let the MS rest. You’re simply too familiar with the wording and your manner of speaking. You won’t see where you typed it wrong.

If you had asked me if I’d ever revise a story so many times, I’d say NO, but really it’s minor tweaks happening IF I can let it rest a proper amount of time first!

So I do all the hard work there, after the “rest” phase, and everyone else benefits (I hope).

WORK ON OTHER STUFF WHILE YOU LET THE MS REST.

Write your next amazing story. You have more than one in you, trust me.

Most of you can’t let your MS rest long enough to become objective about it, and most of the rest of you probably revise it forever. There’s a rule for that, too: at some point the changes don’t make it better, they just make it different. Don’t forget to eventually get to step 8.

Take a deep breath and press send. Publish that sucker.

For an author, to be unread is to not exist.

Just be sure to rest a while first.

How long do YOU let your manuscript rest? BE HONEST!!

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Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the amazingly great sci fi action thriller “The Navigators.” Click HERE to get your copy of The Navigators – $2.99 or FREE on Kindle Unlimited!

Available in paperback and audio book, too!

28 thoughts on “3 Crucial Things YOU SKIP That RUIN Your Story

  1. Hi Dan, usually, before sending the MS for editing, I like to hear what beta Readers have to say about the Whole. Well, I’m not a bestseller’s writer… and my betas are few, but I do like their critic way to examine my MS, this helps me to make changes (little one’s and most time “chamfer/smooth edges” or even cut off redundancy). Thank you so much for Always giving your reader good stuff to think about! Serene weekend :-)claudine

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s a great point. Usually when I send my story to beta readers, I have reviewed it once or twice myself and let one of my trusted critique partners review it. Because I have a pretty good connection with that particular critique partner, if we both agree the story is saying what I wanted to say, then I feel pretty good about releasing it to beta readers. Other authors may proceed differently and either way go with the system that works for you!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hmmm. Makes me wonder if I should give my indefinitely backburnered YA another look…

    This post reminded me of something I did while I was teaching. On the first day of school, we created a time capsule. One thing each student put in there was a writing sample. Then, during the last week of school, I had them write to the same prompt. We opened the capsule, and there were their first samples to compare to the new ones. They always blew their own minds with how much they improved.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, what a cool idea! I might be afraid to see what my writing sample would’ve looked like!

      Early works are always difficult to pull back out and look at because after a while we understand how much we have grown and changed and learned and improved, and we know it will be a lot of work to take an early work and make it something that’s not going to embarrass us or show in any way a decrease in the quality of our writing. Our readers don’t care if it’s an early work; they want a quality product no matter when we wrote it. The fact that we’re just putting it out now doesn’t take away from that quality criteria.

      So it depends on several factors, one of which is how good of a editor and critique partner you are – and I know you are VERY good. You take those editing and critique partner skills and you pretend it’s somebody else’s manuscript, and you make all the suggestions that you would make, only you don’t have to suggest. You get to just do it. And I think once you start you will find that you had some really great ideas because you are the same person now that you were then. Just as creative and just as smart, but your skills have improved and your eye for how to craft a story has improved. Now you can take those interesting and intriguing ideas and really shape them into the quality of writing they could have been if you had written them now – and you can write them now, because you are still here and so are they.

      I would definitely trot them out. After all, you put them down on paper or into a computer for a reason.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. That rest time definitely is important. I had a recent work rest for half a year, and when I looked at it again I found a few tweaks. I thought it would need a lot more work than it actually needed, because I was too close to it at the time. J.

    Liked by 1 person

      • It varies, Dan. A lot of it depends on life and deadlines. So far, I haven’t put out a book on a “normal” timeline. But I would let a book sit at least a few months, perhaps while beta-readers, critiquers, and editors had their say. Then I’d go over it at least several times again.

        Short stories for contests I’ve let rest for at least a couple of weeks. Same with articles I post (e.g. guest posts) that I can’t change later.

        My blog articles I schedule and look over again before they post (anywhere from a day to a week). It’s amazing what I find even the next morning, when I’m fresh–not necessarily errors, but better and tighter ways of saying things. I post only my own blog articles so quickly because I know I can go back later and tweak a word or add a comma! (Mind you, first impressions count.)

        I’ve let important e-mails sit anywhere from an hour to days. If it’s time sensitive, then getting up, walking around, or doing something mindless for a while really helps. It’s amazing what you think of the moment you’re in another room!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Great! When I was at College (I was very young, btw) our teachers used to tell us: “don´t come up to my desk with your essay written 2 hours ago!”. We`re too anxious. I´m longing for that blessed day (to rest, I mean…). Thanks, Dan.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for this series of writing tips, Dan. I just re-read some NaNo work of mine from 2015 and you are correct—it’s like someone else wrote it and I have found it for the first time. I am going to start some rewrites and see where it takes me.
    Ω

    Liked by 1 person

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