Monday, June 15, 2009

Red Light Writing

I used to have this friend who really had a hang-up about red lights. She'd be sitting at a red light, glaring at it the whole time. "I wonder how much of my life, if you added it all up, I've spent sitting at red lights," she fumed. "It's probably like whole days. Weeks even. I hate them."

I knew better than to point out the obvious: without red lights, we'd all be smudges on the road. Red lights are a tiny pause that brings order to life.

My last two books, I've gone through pretty major revisions with both--AFTER I thought I was done. I'm a speedy little writer, so I like to whip a manuscript out, revise it like mad, get myself worked up, type "THE END" and ship it off. Goodbye! I hate revisiting them afterward, and I hate even reading them again. It's worse than boring. It's agonizing. What if I see something I want to fix?

But both times, after months have passed, I've had to go back into the books with a fresh eye and look for opportunities for revision. And both times, I've been surprised how much better I can make the book with a little distance. So now I'm a believer in the literary red light. Finish your book. Then wait until the initial flush of emotion goes away. Then finish it again.


Mark Terry said...

I have exactly the same issue. I tend to work fairly fast, but I've definitely benefited from an "aging" process before a final rewrite. We will send out no manuscripts before their time.

Melanie Avila said...

I've taken a couple month-long breaks from this wip during the entire process, and even wrote 60K+ words on a new MS during one of those breaks. I agree, they're a necessary part of the process.

Aimless Writer said...

Good advice. I cringe when I go back after the red light. Did I really think I was done???

LurkerMonkey said...


Yeah. I call that "sacrificing a book." It's just a waste of a 90-percent effort to send it out before it's done.

LurkerMonkey said...


You must be excited, though, to be at the query stage! Now you can work on something new. Ha ha. Just kidding.

LurkerMonkey said...


Back at ya. I think exactly the same thing all the time.

Melanie Avila said...

I'm almost at the query stage. I still have one person reading my book, so I have more edits in the near future. But the BIG work is done. I'm just getting the letter ready because I don't want to loose focus and work on something else right now.

I have another wip that I'm 60K+ words into and it's going to take some time to get back into that mindset, so I don't want to jump around right now.

Travis Erwin said...

Sound advice. I relooking at a novel I "finished" more than two years ago.