Shelley Widhalm

Revision Procrastination

In 52: A Writer's Life, Revising, Shelley Widhalm, Writing Processes on January 27, 2013 at 11:00 am

Normally, I’m not a procrastinator, except when it comes to the revision process.

I had planned to take one month off from my novel, which I finished in early December, and at that time, I wanted to keep on working. That month turned into five weeks and then six and I still have not begun to edit.

A writer friend told me that a first draft needs to sit for awhile to give the writer some distance and time to forget every line written. She recommended not looking at the draft for at least one month but preferably three, except I can’t wait that long with plans to attend a writer’s conference in late March.

So, I have a personal deadline, and yet I haven’t opened the document called Novel, nor printed it out. Instead, I’ve been packing my life with other things, like going to the movies, eating out, seeing friends and reading.

Luckily, reading is the best tool for that in-between time of writing and editing. That’s where writers can analyze how other writers approach storytelling, use the elements of writing and engage a distinctive voice.

Procrastinating editing has a few advantages:

• It’s a way to not actively think about the rough draft, letting some thoughts and processing happen at the subconscious level. Likewise, if writers know all the elements of writing and approaches to telling a story, they may make new connections by not doing everything by rote on a daily basis.
• Writers get a break from their own way of writing and may, from their reading, ponder how other writers use language, choose words and describe the story world.
• Errors are easier to catch with some distance. The idea is to read each word, instead of filling in what should be there, both at the sentence level and the level of character and scene development.
• Writers can be more of a reader, noting where they get bored or their minds wander. They can read the opening scene and, hopefully, be more honest about whether it’s the right place to begin the story, if there is too much backstory early on and if there’s reason to read on to the next chapter.

Finally, procrastinating allows writers to experience life without thinking that they should be writing. Both are necessary and should be kept in balance.

So … I will start editing on Monday, I promise!

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  1. I agree 100%. Taking a break – no matter how it occurs – can often be the best thing for your writing.

  2. […] Revision Procrastination (shelleywidhalm.wordpress.com) […]

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