Cooling Off

Finishing the first draft of a WIP is exciting. It’s that time when you jump around the house screaming OMG GUYS OMG I JUST FINISHED MY NOVEL LET’S HAVE CUPCAKES and then you have a baking extravaganza with lots of confetti and chocolate icing.

What? Don’t look at me that way. You know that’s totally your fantasy, too.

Anyway. If you announce the completion of your first draft on Twitter and I see it, I’ll throw virtual confetti at you because that’s just what I do. Wait. That’s not the point I was trying to make. Where was I?

Oh yeah. Upon completing the first draft, writers tend to have a lot of energy. We’re (usually) amenable to a day off, but our minds are already thinking about the editing and what it’ll be like to have it TOTALLY DONE FOR REALS. Oh, the excitement, the terror, the EXCITEMENT!

So it’s not surprising that I see this on Twitter all the time: I JUST FINISHED MY WIP CAN’T WAIT TO EDIT TOMORROW.

To which I slam my head against the keyboard and scream something incoherent reminiscent of a dying cat and a giggling goblin.

It’s tempting to begin editing your newly finished WIP immediately. I know. Even waiting a week is hard because you want more than anything to dive back into it and make it shine. But if you really want to get the most out of editing, if you really want to be able to see the flaws so you can stomp them out early, then guys you need a cooling off period.

This is not optional. In order to really edit your work you need to distance yourself, and that’s pretty difficult to do when you finished your WIP yesterday.

I wait a minimum of a month. During that month I distract myself with other things. This too, is important. If you spend your cooling off period thinking about your WIP, you haven’t done anything but waste your time, because you haven’t distanced yourself at all.

But AVA, you say. What am I supposed to do for a WHOLE MONTH? Do not despair! Distraction month can be great:

  • Read a book. Or two. Or four. 
  • Write a book. That’s right, start a new COMPLETELY UNRELATED story. No sequels. NO SEQUELS. Sequels make you think of the WIP you’re trying not to think about and that’ll just give you a headache. 
  • Watch movies. Lots of them. Like, ridiculous amounts. I don’t know about you, but movies give me awesome ideas. Plus they’re just pretty sweet in general. 
  • Go outside. Let’s face it, you’ve been writing probably a while now. When’s the last time you just chilled outside without thinking about your WIP? That’s right. Now get some sun on that pasty skin.
  • Spend a day with friends and family. They missed you. Just don’t talk about your WIP. That’s against the rules.
  • Travel. If you can, anyway. But if you get the opportunity, go for it. At the very least, you’ll make your Twitter friends jealous and you might get some inspiration for a new idea. 
  • Dance! DANCE MY PRETTIES, DANCE! Err…I mean…dancing is good for you…or…something. IT’S FUN! 

You get the idea. The possibilities are endless; just do something that’ll take your mind off your WIP.

THEN, in a MONTH, guess what? Vacation’s over. Now get back to work.

What do you do during YOUR cooling off period?


Alice M. said...

I went back to my projects I'd abandoned for the book, played a lot of games, watched some TV. Did organizational stuff for book one.

That, by the way, is awesome to do during the cooldown, if you're lucky enough to have concrete plans for your WIP. I find it really calming to organise my end of publicity and cover art and jacket quotes and book expos and whatnot. I'm involved, but I'm not looking directly at my WIP. Because I'm with a small publisher I'm more involved than most authors, but the final decision is out of my hands so it mostly amounts to just organising -- and that's perfect.

I also recommend getting a writing partner who rocks to encourage you to produce unrelated work ;)

Jennie Bennett said...

I only took two weeks off after my first draft and I watched a ton of movies in that time. I tried to start another book, but that didn't work out. Aunyway I plan on taking a month break when I'm done with my second draft. I feel like it's more important then. I plan on spending that time building my writing credentials submitting articles and joining short story contests. We'll see how that works out, lol! Have a good day!

Tiffany "Kysis" Tackett said...

Another great blog post! I really harp on this to my fellow writers locally, that if they don't take a break from their "big masterpiece", they won't be able to get the proper perspective to do it justice in the revisions stage, which just makes it another painting, rather than a masterpiece like they want.

During my cooling off period, I play a LOT of videogames. With my writing schedule, I really don't have time for them (except a few sneaky sessions of Baldur's Gate now and then, and maybe a bit on weekend nights, where I would have been procrastinating anyway), so it is a wonderful treat and reward for finishing a WIP. I also start the brainstorming process on my next book, which always happens in a different world than the last. Yes, after one or two, I'll return to a world I've created already, but back to back? No. The world needs to rest for a bit, since it's still hurting from what I did to it in the last draft. XD

Cupcakes sound like a wonderful idea. I think, when I finish my current WIP (Hope of the Mirra), I am going to throw a mini-writers party with a lemon tart cupcake in hand. Normally I just dive right in to the next project and never take a day off (Type A personality much?), but really, this one is big. I deserve it!

Thanks again, for the wonderful post!!!
~Tiffany, aka RelentlessMuse

Gabe (Ava Jae) said...


Organizing cover art and jacket quotes sounds like fun. I can't say I've done that before, but it definitely sounds like a great way to work on your WIP without really working on it...if...that makes sense. Hmm. Your description worked better.


Wow! That sounds like a great plan, good luck! :)


Video games! I'm surprised I didn't think of that. Video games are an awesome way to relax and totally NOT think about that WIP you're putting aside.

Also, that writer's party sounds delicious. Lemon tart cupcakes? YUM! You totally deserve it!

Thanks for the wonderful comments, everyone! :)

Anonymous said...

I am of the write-something-else school of what to do during the cooling off period. That and I usually take a day or two to read and refresh.

Anonymous said...

Always always always always ALWAYS!

I say this to people all the time, even if not quite in this context. I mostly say it to the people that I CAN'T stop from editing WHILE they're writing (those people that are doing it wrong XP).

When you wait to edit something after writing it, you lose track of exactly what it is you've written. Then, when you return to it, you're able to look at it with a fresh mind and SEE your mistakes, the same way that another person would if they were reading it.

Love the post, Ava. Beautiful. <3

Anonymous said...

Oh, and I totally forgot to answer the question:

I do a mixture of all those things. I'll watch a movie, write a little, pick up a book, write a little more, go back to another movie, have my nephews over for a weekend... But I do make sure to distract myself.

Gabe (Ava Jae) said...


Awesome! That certainly helps a tremendous amount.


I do a pretty fair mix as well. It also depends on my mood that month. ^_^

Thanks for commenting!

Ara Grigorian said...

Great post. This is probably the most important step in writing. This is where you objectively see gaps, or discontinuity.

I take two weeks off and it hurts. But I have to do it otherwise it's almost as if I'm still in first draft mode.

During the two weeks, I do a few things:
(1) Spend time with the family
(2) Brainstorm new ideas
(3) Extensive research on agents, publishers and trends
(4) catch up on the rest of the world


James Garcia Jr said...

Thanks for the post, Ava. Now I don't feel so bad that I have not touched my latest since December. It isn't as if I had a choice in the matter - my publisher has had it since then. My understanding is it will be returning to me this month, and I am very excited to get started.

Take care and have a great week.


Krista said...

I am not sure what I do during a cooling off period because my last work was kind of stop and start - but I am definitely going to do this with my next project!

Also, I find that for me - the more distance I get from a piece the less I am like "Oh crap, this is awwwwfullll!" I still see the flaws but I am more able to accept it as being good over all :)

Unknown said...

Haha, you're adorable. *pinches cheeks* Annoying, no? :P

Anyway, I love it that you would compare a dying cat to a giggling goblin. Makes perfect sense to me. And you probably already know which of these options I choose: MOVIES. Though I sometimes continue to watch movies until I've dorgotten what my WIP was about, lol. NOT GOOD! <_<

So yeah... I'm excited you're featuring on my blog today. Whee. Okay, I'll go back to movie-watching and not-editing now. :D

Hope Collier said...

Great advice, Ava! This is so true, too. I think self-imposed rules are great for all aspects of life. I know I'm a gut reaction kind of girl. I'll see something and think, "This is freaking genius!" Two days later, I'm picking it apart realizing what crap it actually is. So yeah, great post!

PS-the fact that you tagged "cupcakes" in there with WIP,editing, and tips, is every kind of awesome :D

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