I write stuff for kids...and muse on writing, children's books, and the publishing industry in general

Monday, June 13, 2011

Do you take breaks when you're revising?

It's a long weekend where I live, and I've decided to take some time off my revisions. A huge step for me, as I've been working on the same document most days for what feels like forever now! And it's hardly taken that much arm-twisting from my critique partner either *grins*.

I guess that's made me wonder, how do you do it? Do you sit down for a solid chunk of time and finish all your revisions in one go? Do you have breaks between each revision-draft of your manuscript (and if so, for how long)? Does the whole revising process work better if you come back to a document fresh from some time at the beach/snow/wherever? Or does taking some time off actually break your train of thought, making it hard to get back into the manuscript when you start?

The same questions apply to drafting too, so drafters feel free to weigh-in :) I'm a huge fan of letting a first draft "rest" before you dive into revisions, but do you take breaks at other times as well?


Trisha said...

I had a huge long run of revision, and got up to the start of the 4th draft. Was going strong, until about 2/3 of the way through. Then I sort of crashed & burned. LOL. I haven't touched it since. Guess I needed a break ;)

Misha Gerrick said...

I had to to take a break recently, just because the character got to me a little too much.

That aside, I think that breaks can be good, lest I start getting used to the weaker quality of my story. I'm so glad I took yesterday off for that reason.


Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

I was going to take time off from revisions this long weekend too, but then it rained... and rained. I got a lot of writing done!

Royce A Ratterman said...

Since Nov 2009 I was forced to take a break - still on it - due to the theft of my laptop and moving into a small rental apartment without a 'personal space' area to work. I guess I needed a long break. Hope to get back fresh in winter.

Usually, I like a short 1-2 week break only ... still in focus, but away long enough to clear my mind.

Unknown said...

hey! this is a really good question.

I would say breaks will most definitely be needed on any writing project, and at any writing stage [drafting, writing, revising/editing] in order for one to keep his or her sanity.

Here is how it works for me, usually:

Drafting: This could be the easiest part, but for my current WIP it was actually the hardest part. It probably took about one month, on and off days, to get a solid idea I could use. I knew where I wanted to go, but I needed to narrow my focus. I just took it easy, and if an idea came to me, I jotted it down. Tried not to stress myself in fear I'd scare off the Muse and end up with zero ideas.

Writing: I wrote a few chapters and when I ran out of anything to say, I'd stop writing for a while and I'd either A) edit another project that I'd already completed, or b) listen to music, clean the house, cook dinner, take a shower, etc, until something came to me.

However, I figured if I kept this up for too long, waiting for inspiration, the book would never be complete, so... I ended up writing it out of order. If I knew what happened on page such and such, but not what was happening right now, i'd skip to that scene. From there, my characters would reveal other scenes and plot points.

Editing/First Draft: Usually, for me, this involves checking to see if there is enough content for an entire story or too much content.
From there, I either cut words, and scenes, or decide what is missing. This would, then give me Second Draft.

Revising: I think it helps to take a break from your manuscript for a while, and return with fresh eyes. I'd say, at least a week. Then continue to edit your MS and work it into a finished piece of literature.

For me, this is the last stage, divided into three different phases:

1. make sure plot works
2. check continuity
3. spelling, grammar, etc

For me, it even helps to keep continuity notes and/or general plot notes, in case I have to come back to the MS much later, though I usually record my Plot notes, because when I write them, they make no sense later.

Hope this helps!

PS: Your WIP intrigues me. Sounds tres tres interesting.

& breaks are definitely good. they are good medicine for when you want to burn the entire MS and hit your head against a wall.

Unknown said...

Hey Rach!

I write my first drafts as fast as I can. Then I try to do one round of revisions as much as I can in one sitting to check for consistency and plot holes. Then I step away from the story for a few weeks and/or give to beta/CPs. I usually come back to it a few times here and there when ideas hit me. But once I have all my feedback, I go back with a vengeance and do some major revisions. I like to have another beta after revisions too. Honestly, even after all these revsions I can come back to it a few months later and find ways to improve... so how long and how much I revise is dependent on how successful my queries are.

Good luck! :)

AimeeLSalter said...

I may be repeating others but...

I personally have gone both ways, starting revisions right on the back of previous rounds AND taking weeks in between.

I'm convinced taking a break is a good idea because you stop remembering how you phrased something and stop anticipating. You can read with fresh eyes and catch things you've missed for months.

I know published authors who suggest taking a month off (or "...however long it takes for the characters and plotlines to stop running through your head every day...").

As for what gets done in a round? I personally keep working til a round of revisions is finished just because I feel like I've accomplished somethign then.

Laura Pauling said...

If I know what I need to do then I keep going. I'm going to take a 6 week break from my manuscript this summer but only b/c I've gotten to the point where I've done everything I know to do and I'm getting close. Why stop if I know what to do?

Sarah said...

I do my revisions really quickly and sometimes think I need to let things sit for longer. Taking a break is a great idea, but something I really struggle with!

Miranda Hardy said...

I enjoy reading what others do, and I know somethings work better for one and not the other. I like to read a good book or two between revisions. Then again, I am always reading, so I tend to throw myself into numerous books in between.

Zan Marie said...

I'm an on and off writer when I draft. (That worries me, but it is how I work.) Once I ever get a draft together, I plan a month off to do another job that will be due and then return for revision. We'll is if that works. For shorter projects, I don't take as long a break.

Alyssa Fox said...

I let me revisions sit for a week if I can and then come back to them. Sometimes I can't do that with deadlines from my editor.

Crystal said...

I have every intention of taking a break once I'm done my WIP before I start revisions. A fresh eye never hurts, and I think it enables to to catch things more easily.

Elena Solodow said...

I think it's always important to give yourself time away from a MS between draft periods. The same goes for revisions. I think working on anything in a long stretch can be tiring for your brain. It's always good to step away.

Unknown said...

It depends on what draft I'm on. Early in the game, I tend not to take breaks. But later on I do. I need the emotional space, and I like to work on something else at that point.

Savannah Chase said...

I do take breaks, a day or a few hours. It depends on the project...It helps to rest your mind and get a fresh start so that I can think more clearly...

Carol Riggs said...

Breaks are a great idea! You can come back fresh, give yourself time to think stuff through. I haven't let myself take one during my last stint of revising, though. I'm like a dog with a bone--can't seem to quit chewing away on it. ;o)

Suze said...

When I revise, I get a bit absorbed by the process-- as my dear husband and daughter well know.

There was a quote I read in the opening pages of a Sarah Dessen novel almost ten years ago. It read simply,

'She'll be back, soon. She's just writing.'

That's it, right there.

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

I only revise for about an hour and then stop. And then sometimes I go for a few days before getting back to it. I'm slow as hell but don't care. I've got a job and I figure I'm not published now so what's the big hurry.

Alleged Author said...

Your critique partner must love your WIP if you don't have to twist his/her arm! I take time off revising but get myself into trouble by starting a slew of new projects. Bad AA. I'll probably get sent to the boo box.

Unknown said...

Ideally I'd like to do all my revisions in one big chunk, with no other distractions until I'm done...
In real life? Well, in real life I haven't even got to the end of the FIRST CHAPTER comments you sent me, like, a month ago!
(I know, I know, what HAVE I been doing in the past month... certainly not writing/editing...)

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I do it in small chunks of time and once I reach the end, I start over. Because by that time, I've forgotten how the story began!

Liz Fichera said...

I think it depends on the amount of revisions needed and any looming deadlines. Once I get started, though, it's hard for me to stop. I rarely can do in small chunks.

Devin Bond said...

I have to do everything in chunks. Sometimes the thought of doing everything at once is just too daunting.

Rachael Harrie said...

Thanks for your awesome comments guys! I love seeing how you revise and work your first drafts - it's funny how there are so many ways people approach it :)



Deana said...

I'm a little bit of both. Breaks are MUCH needed so my wip doesn't become a wasteland of words jumbled together, but if I break too long then it is easier to keep that break going.

It sounds to me like you deserve a break. Hope you enjoy it!

Lydia Kang said...

I do them all at once. I need to take a much longer break between drafts, etc, but I'm too impatient.

Kerri Cuev said...

I guess it depends on my mood. Most of the time I go full steam ahead though. When my brain gets fogged then I know it's time for a break to refresh.

Enjoy your break!

scribbleandedit.blogspot.co.uk said...

I used to stop to make coffee and get some choc or cookies or cake to go with it regularly. :O)

Ghenet Myrthil said...

I plan to take a break from my WIP between finishing the first draft and revision, so I can look at it with fresh eyes. I will probably go through a few rounds of edits so perhaps I'll take short breaks between them? Time will tell!

Good luck with your revisions and enjoy your break!

Erica Pike said...

You know what I'd recommend? Write another manuscript. You know where I'm stuck with my YA mannie and I was feeling all depressed because I wasn't getting anywhere. My spirit rocketed once I decided to write a new manuscript and I'm all psyched again. Okay, so the YA mannie is still on hold, but at least I have two that I'm getting ready to submit.

aisyahputrisetiawan said...

Banned complain !! Complaining only causes life and mind become more severe. Enjoy the rhythm of the problems faced. No matter ga life, not a problem not learn, so enjoy it :)

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