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The Importance Of Walking Away

January 12th, 2018

We’ve all been there. The thrill of typing ‘The End,’ the realisation that it’s perfect. It’s time to show it to the world.

STOP! Step away from the Send button. Don’t print it yet. It may not be as ready as you think.

I know it’s hard. You’ve been working on this for weeks, months, maybe even years. You’re finally finished and can’t wait for the rewards: first place in the competition, centre spread in the magazine, the big book deal, the lavish reviews.

You undertake a final, begrudging proof-read, confident you’re wasting your time. You’ve read it so many times, you won’t find any mistakes…

Hmm – there’s a typo in the last paragraph.

And another one on page 2.

Your main character, Kelly, has accidentally become Kellie in several places

Thank goodness you spotted them. Now it’s ready. But wait…

The dialogue on page 7 is a bit wordy and ambling.

Several descriptions are bland and need ramping up.

There’s a lot of telling, rather than showing, in the final scene – it looks rushed.

And have you really used the word ‘soft’ five times in one description?

Walk away, and don’t just put the kettle on. Leave it for at least a week, if not longer. Work on something else for a while; start that new story or try a different style of writing. The more words your work contains the longer you should leave it, so if you’ve finished the first draft of your novel (congratulations!), I’d suggest putting it away for at least a month. You might need to start projects earlier to meet deadlines, but it should be worth it.

It’s natural to become invested in your story, but without a break you end up reading it as a reader instead of an editor. A respite will help you come back with an impartial mindset. The examples I mentioned above are very common, but they should’ve been spotted during editing, not the final proof-read. (Some of them are mine – soft is one of my most over-used words!)

Editing your work takes time, patience and compromise between your creative and logical sides, but it’s incredibly rewarding and can even be fun! Not to mention it’s sometimes the difference between seeing it in print or not. So, get ready with that red pen, but try to wait a while before you use it.

Victoria says: I live in the Norfolk countryside with my husband, two feral children and diva cat. Writing keeps me out of trouble while the kids are at school.

I have a historical fiction novel to my name and am currently working on the sequel, along with a fantasy novel and lots of short stories.

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