Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Letting It Simmer

About three weeks ago I finished a first draft of my latest WIP. As I typed my last sentence a feeling of relief and euphoria washed over me. Relief because I’d met my self-imposed deadline of finishing before my children began summer vacation, euphoria because, well, I’d finished a novel and that’s always a nice feeling.

So I did my usual “pat on the back” things. Took a nice long bliss yoga class. Got a mani-pedi. Treated myself to a 60 minute hot stone massage to get all those kinks out of my neck from the long hours of typing (hmmm, could that be a tax write-off?). Unabashedly filled my cup with dark chocolate yogurt and toppings at Yoforia. I also sent my full off to a handful of readers who agreed to get notes back to me by the end of the month.

And then I promptly turned into a crazy person.

All phases of the writing process have their challenges and I think as I go through each one I deem it THE most challenging, but this one…the “letting it simmer” phase is the one I’m currently struggling with. Why? You know that advice about putting your manuscript aside for say, a month, so you can look at it with fresh eyes? Yeah, I have a problem with that.

Always have.

I’m not sure if it comes from the day in and day out spending time with one foot in this world and one foot in the world inside my head that makes it so hard to just chill for awhile. Or if it’s that raspy, paranoid We’ve got to get this done before another book with similar themes written by a celebrity comes out voice that whispers to me when my guard is down. Or if it’s the twisted anticipation of wanting to know my first readers don’t think my manuscript is beyond hope and simply sucks. Whatever the reason, I’m the proverbial dog with a chew toy, not wanting to let go.

So I wait. Hang out with my husband and kids. Watch movies. Spend hours at the pool. Gossip with neighbors. Read. Work-out. Catch up on all the housework I’ve ignored. And remember that yes, I do know how to do more than microwave dinner. And wait some more.

Letting my 370 unruly pages simmer.

Because as it simmers, and the flavors come out and I busy myself with something other than watching it boil over, I know I’ll be able to go back and look at it objectively (well, sort of) and see where I need to add some spice or take things out completely or if there are places I need to (gulp) start from scratch.

So how do you handle it? Do you let you work simmer? Or just keep at it until you think it’s done?


  1. I never let a manuscript simmer because I am "supposed to." I only do it, when I feel inside like I need to get away from it for a few days or weeks. When I get truly sick of looking at it and thinking about it.

  2. Robin,
    Congratulations on completing a first draft of a novel. Terrific! I imagine there's something you started earlier that got put aside while you worked on your novel or something new you'd like to start. That might help you mind off the novel. But I can't help but compare this to sending your kid to camp. How can you not worry, at least some.

  3. I think simmering is necessary. Every time I've rushed to submit, I've been sorry afterward.

  4. I always try to let it simmer. But I'm one of those cooks that need to taste everything while I cook. So I may revise just a pinch during simmering.

  5. Huge congrats on finishing your draft. (Are you also going to buy another new pair of shoes?)

    I find it tough to resist the urge to revise while a manuscript is out with readers. Instead, I anticipate what suggestions for changes my readers will make. Then I make the changes, knowing they're usually right, so when it comes time for them to give their actual critiques, I can say, "Oh, I already fixed that!"


    Really, though, it is hard for me to put a manuscript aside, for simmering, or at any other stage. It just never feels fully cooked.

  6. Corey - Sounds very intuitive!

    Linda - Thanks. I have trouble shifting gears to something else! I might...might not, not sure. Think I might just actually take a break.

    Gale - Yep! Totally on board with simmering for that particular reason.

    J.A. - I'm the same way. This go around I'm just trying to let it be for awhile. Helps that I'm going on vacation!

    JL - Haven't found a worthy pair! Or maybe when it's done, done and out on submission I'll get some shoes, lol. And yeah, I think the "never fully cooked" is a real hazard...I think you always want to make something better!

  7. Robin

    Fabulous that you finished the first draft - a huge accomplishment - relax for a little - Gale's right - we always regret if we send it out too early. Enjoy the well earned rest!