Let the Words Settle

Why It’s Important to Let Your Manuscript Rest

When you finish your draft, it can be tempting to dive right into revisions. But that’s a bad idea. Say it with me:

Let your manuscript rest.

Giving your manuscript time to “settle” is one of the most important things you can do for the quality of the final product. But somehow, doing nothing seems to be the most difficult part of the process.

Why the Resting Stage is Crucial

Keeping in mind the reasons the resting stage is so important will help you keep your mind off your manuscript. Here’s why you absolutely cannot overvalue the resting stage.

1. Distance

The main goal for the resting stage is to be able to approach your manuscript like a first-time reader. That makes the editing process easier and more effective. Allowing your manuscript at least a month to rest—that means no looking at it or thinking about it—will help you view the work as though someone else wrote it.

2. Mental Rest

The drafting process can be long and can take a lot out of you! It’s important to allow your mind time to rest. Give yourself a break so you can start editing feeling refreshed and revitalized.

3. Clarification

Sometimes we don’t understand something until we stop thinking about it. How many times have you had a word on the tip of your tongue, but couldn’t come up with it until you stopped trying? Manuscripts can be like that. Stop thinking about it for a while, and you’ll be amazed at the ideas you have when you come back to your story.

What to Do While You’re Not Writing

Taking time away from your manuscript can be difficult. You’ve been working on it so long, it seems like part of you life. How can you walk away right in the middle of the process? Focus on how much better your manuscript will be because of this resting stage, and try these tips to keep your mind off your book.

1. Work on something else.

Just because you’re letting your manuscript rest doesn’t mean you have to stop writing! Work on a different novel or a short story. Try your hand at poetry or a new form. Let your mind drift away from your manuscript’s characters—to a new world.

2. Take up a new hobby.

Trying new things is good for the soul. Take up painting or quilting. Maybe try a new sport, or go dancing. Do something you’ve never done before to get your mind off your manuscript and boost your confidence after a long, arduous drafting process.

3. Relish the rest.

Watch a few movies. Play some video games. String up your hammock and stare at the clouds for a few hours. Take some time to enjoy the rest—you’ve earned it.

4. Exercise.

Get your adrenaline pumping with a nice, long run or a good lifting session. Go for a hike to get some exercise in and get yourself out of cell range—while soaking up some amazing views, of course. Working your body will keep you from overexerting your mind.

5. Spend time with loved ones.

Your poor friends and family have waited patiently while you poured countless hours into your draft. They’d like to see you! Make time for your loved ones, and enjoy their company. Now that your manuscript is resting, you can give them your full attention, without your mind drifting to character backstories and plot holes.

Let Your Manuscript Rest for a Better Book

The amount of time your manuscript rests is entirely up to you. Most agree that about a month is a good amount of time, but there is really no maximum time. Just don’t wait so long you don’t feel like finishing your book! Pop your manuscript in a drawer—or in a dark, dusty computer folder—and let it be out of sight and out of mind. When you return to it, you’ll have fresh eyes, a rested mind, and a clearer outlook. You’ll be able to approach the work objectively, and your readers will thank you for it.


Photo by Jo Naylor

June 27, 2017
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