It’s advice you’ve probably heard before: After finishing the first draft of your novel (and subsequent drafts to a lesser degree), you should let it rest a bit before you jump into revisions. In other words, you should spend some period of time not rereading or even glancing at your novel before you start making changes.
In today’s post, we’re going to talk about that resting period and what you should do while your novel is off-limits.
Why does your novel need to rest?
I have an entire post dedicated to this! But in short:
Putting your novel away for a while gives you perspective. While you’re writing the first draft, it’s as if you’re stuck on 500% view and can’t zoom out. Taking time away gives back the full picture.
Resting your novel also gives you some emotional distance from it. When you first finish a novel, you’re extremely attached. It’s much easier to make big changes after some time has passed.
Finally, resting your story before you work on it again allows you to forget some of the finer details. You’ll get more of a sense of what a reader would experience.
How do you rest your novel, then?
First, choose how long you’ll let the novel rest. If this is your first time finishing a novel and embarking on revisions, I recommend something on the longer end—six to eight weeks, if you can.
Now that you have a date for when you can open up your novel again, move the document into a new folder. This’ll keep your muscle memory from automatically opening it.
Another helpful tip is to name the new folder it’s in with the date you can open it. For example: DO NOT OPEN UNTIL APRIL 26 2021.
Once you’ve got the folder all set up and your open date chosen, don’t peek until that date! If you get any ideas in the meantime, write them down in a notebook or start an entirely different document.
So what should you do while your novel’s resting?
Now we’re getting to the meat of things!
Finishing a novel is a huge accomplishment. Think of all the people out there who say they want to write a book and never get around to it. Think of all the people who start writing but never finish. You finished! Get yourself your favorite snack and beverage, buy that slightly frivolous thing you’ve been wanting for a while, and give yourself permission to be proud!
Then, catch up on all the stuff you’ve been ignoring while writing.
Didn’t get your laundry done? Haven’t been texting friends back? Forgot to call your favorite family member? This is the time to get caught up on all those things you’ve been neglecting. Get back into your language learning, clean the house, spend time with your loved ones, or spend time relaxing by yourself! And do it all without thinking “I should be writing right now.”
After that, refill your creative well.
Creative output needs creative input. A lot of writers refer to this as the “creative well.” As you write, you draw creative water out of this well over and over, and often at the end of a big project like a novel, the well is looking pretty low, if not totally dry.
To make sure your well is full of new ideas for new projects and brilliant solutions to the revision issues you’re sure to come up against with this one, you need to refill it with whatever inspires you. That may be other books. It might be your favorite TV shows or movies. Maybe it’s not content at all, but things like walks in the woods or a day at the beach or late-night chats with your best friend. Do whatever inspires you and brings you more ideas.
As your open date gets closer, study up on writing craft.
This is especially helpful if you’re new to revisions. Spend some time reading up on writing craft for whatever you think you may come up against. Maybe you’ll need help with characters, world building, plot, or sentence flow. (By the way, I do craft book reviews on the blog! You can click here to see books I’ve reviewed in the past.)
Find some books, YouTube videos, and/or podcasts on the topics you think you'll have trouble with. Having these tips fresh in mind as you read through your book again for the first time can really help with your revisions.
Bonus: Write something else. (If you want.)
This is not for everyone, but if you’ve got another book idea (or short story, or novella, or memoir, or whatever) that you’re super excited about, you could start writing that while you wait for this one to rest.
Or maybe you’re not ready to write yet, but you’ve got some ideas floating around. You could do some brainstorming or even outlining if that’s your thing. This can be especially helpful if you just can’t stop thinking about your book and the waiting is agony for you.
One caution, though: I recommend not working on a sequel quite yet if this is your first time writing a novel. You’ll learn so, so much from revising that first novel, and it will have major effects on any sequel you write. (It also has the downside of putting you right back into the same book world when what you’re trying to do right now is get away from that world for a bit.)
It’s so exciting to finish a novel, and it’s natural to want to jump right back in, but it truly is important to let it rest. This isn’t everything you could possibly do while your novel rests, but I hope it gives you enough to get you through those six to eight weeks of waiting. Good luck on your revisions!
And if you’re a bit further along in the writing process and are looking for an editor, I’m your girl! Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to get started.