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Partially because of that and partially because I’d like to write a more coherent post on the topic, I’ve decided to write about the cooling off period again because yes, it’s that important. (If you really want to read the original, I suppose you could go here. But you don’t have to. In fact, it’d probably be best if you didn’t.)
Anyway. As many writers know (and some would rather pretend they didn’t know), the cooling off period is more important than it sounds—it’s the time that allows us to take a couple steps back away from our freshly drafted WIPs, so that we can then in turn edit more objectively. It’s the pause between writing and editing—the breather, so to speak, and without it, it is very difficult to edit effectively.
Here’s why: completing a draft of a manuscript is a big accomplishment and it makes us writers feel many different emotions—everything from pride to manic excitement to sometimes a little fear and nervousness—but usually just a lot of excitement and pride. After you complete a draft, your mind is reeling with the world you’ve immersed yourself in while writing—the characters, the setting, the battles and victories and losses—all of those things are fresh in your mind, still sparkling with that wow, I really wrote this shine.
While you’re editing, however, that shine needs to go away. I’m not saying you can’t be proud of your work—but if you really want to edit, if you really want to make your work the best it can be, it requires a lot of legwork on your part and it often requires sacrifices. You have to be able to look at your words and pull out the weaknesses. You must be able to recognize the plot holes and flat characters and inconsistencies and scenes (or entire sections) that need rewriting entirely, and quite frankly, it’s very difficult (if not impossible) to do all of those things when you finished writing the draft yesterday.
You need time to let your manuscript cool—to create some distance between the story you know so well and your excited feelings. Without it, editing is going to be that much more difficult and not nearly as effective as it would have been had you given it time.
I recommend waiting at least a month, but the longer you can stand to stay away, the more distance you’ll create, and the easier it will be to edit objectively—which is, ultimately, the goal.
Do you take a cooling off period between writing and editing? If so, how long? If not, why not?