By the time you’re done reading this, you will walk away with two great tips. One that can help keep your laundry stain free, and another to aid in the editing process and your overall productivity as a writer.
I know, I can tie anything together…
So, for almost two weeks I had a bowl sitting on my counter. It was filled with cold water and one of DH’s shirts. His brand new, silk button-up had obnoxious blue stains on the collar. It wouldn’t have looked so bad if the fabric itself wasn’t a soft cream and the blue the color of Superman’s tights. Did I mention the stains were the size of silver dollars?
I did what I do best. I walked away from it. Literally. I put the shirt in cold water and left it. No chemicals, no scrubbing and no cursing involved. Just infinite patience.
In my experience, cold water will soak out anything: including fresh cherry juice, pomegranate juice and blood.
Time can do that for our manuscripts.
During an AQ chat the other night, this question was brought up: when do you set aside your manuscript and start working on another?
For me, the answer is simple. After a few edits, I put my WIP in my metaphorical bowl of cold water and walk away. Every once in a while, I check in on it and notice the stains are starting to fade, but are still there. In that case, I give it another edit and leave it to soak.
Enter a new manuscript into this waiting period. Between edits is a great time for me to write something new. It uses a different part of my brain than editing and it changes my focus. When I return to my stained manuscript, I can assess it with a fresh persperctive.
I know this is a bit unorthodox and some writers may be cursing me through their screens. (Sorry, but my webcam isn’t fully functioning so I can’t see your head shakes of dismay.) However, I think the process has merit.
- Once fully written, a manuscript undergoes a series of major edits. This should be done soon after the ms is complete. It helps me keep the voice, remember what I knew was missing, etc…. For me, the initial edtiting phase can take about four months and anywhere from 2-6 passages.
- After such careful scrutiny, I am no longer able to assess my manuscripts effectively. I am too close to them. Henceforth setting them aside and walking away.
- It would be a waste of time for me to sit around and stare at the bowl holding my soaking manuscript. So, I write.
- When I come back to my original manuscript, it feels new to me and I am better able to see the remaining flaws stains.
- Sometimes my counter is full of soaking manuscripts. Which is good. It means I’m being productive on some level. And this is really my whole point. I have heard of writers who spend years (many, many long and painful years) on a single manuscript before they even contemplate writing something new. Holy Man Of War, unless you start writing at two, who has that kind of time to waste?
- Anyway, this writing, soaking, writing, soaking, writing process becomes a cycle of unwasted time, fresh perspectives and productivity.
The sad reality is that not everything we write will be published. Especially if we a) send off stained manuscripts, or b) only concentrate on one story forever and ever, amen.
For almost every manuscript, the stains eventually fade and disappear. When this happens, send it out for the world to see. However, if for some reason a manuscript remains unwearable in public, it’s okay to retire it to the painting shirt pile. You’ve learned valuable lessons along the way regarding the writing and editing process. And, if you have followed my advice on writing and soaking, you should have another manuscript ready to go.
How do you increase your productivity without compromising quality? Do you write between edits or simply concentrate on one WIP at a time?