As a writer there are many lessons you learn over time. Aside from things like grammar and following submission rules and a few other things, a lot of the items you have to know about concerning how to write can be somewhat fluid and dependent on the individual. Some revelations just have to come to you, sort to speak.
Though it took me a while, there’s one lesson that has proven itself time after time after time. Even so, I stupidly still find myself every once in a while ignoring it. And it has comes back to bite me every single time I have ignored it. For the sake of this post, I guess I will call it the Stand Back Routine. (If any of you have a better name, do share! This one is somewhat of a mouthful.) 😛
The Stand Back Routine is something I try to do with every work I create. Once I’ve written it and edited it once or twice, I stand back, give the short story a week or two, if a novel, a month or more, then once my brain’s buffer has dumped, I can do a final edit and catch any of the little things I missed and wouldn’t see otherwise.
For the brain buffer to be emptied is an incredibly important step in making sure a story is all that it can be. The subconscious is a tricky animal and while it thinks it’s helping you out, as an author, it is actually not letting you do your work correctly when that buffer is full. Being so close to the work, the subconscious will automatically fill in missing words, will supply information you have inside and incorporate it into what you are reading, letting you miss the fact you never actually stated that very information for the reader! Sentences that don’t flow will appear to and things that don’t jive will actually seem to as well.
By standing back and allowing the brain time to dump the buffer, you can then look at your work again with a less biased light (or auto brain filler). The errors will be more apparent, the lack of information hopefully leap out, your editor cap more capable of doing what you want it to.
Of course, I, like most people, get very excited when something is “finished”. Sometimes standing back feels unnecessary and superfluous or just getting in the way! You’re just too excited to get others to look at it, or deadlines are looming and you can get this sucker out to the writer’s group just in time for the next meeting if you skip this step, instead of having to wait a few weeks or months to put it before the group. (Or in my most recent lapse, loading the latest Supernatural fic to fanfiction.net without waiting that crucial week!) ARGH!
Why can’t I learn? I knew better – Oh I definitely knew. I’ve been bit before. And yet there I went again, thinking all was good to go! But I knew, deep down, I knew I had been bad. I kept getting urges to go read it – which if I had done my job right, and gone through it enough, I wouldn’t want to be looking at it as I would have had my fill while making it right! So last Friday, I went and took a peek.
Within the first paragraph I was cursing. By the end I was beating my head against the wall. Uselessly asking myself (as I have every time I’ve done this): what had I been thinking?
So I went through it again and made it better. Something that would have happened in the first place if I’d had the patience to wait. Now, however, due to my lack of control, I could do nothing to take back the impressions or wrongness picked up by those who’d already read the story before it was fixed. I tell myself I won’t do this again – but I know better…
Oh the agonies involved in being a writer…. or just being my usual stupid self. lol.