Someone in a Facebook group for clean indie authors that I’m part of asked an interesting question earlier–how long do you wait after writing something to edit it?
The answers were as varied as “ten seconds” and “several years” with any number of months and weeks in between. It reaffirmed what I already know–that the methods that work for each author are generally as varied as the people themselves.
That being said, there are also general principles that usually apply to most people–key words “usually” and “most.” When it comes to writing, the key to breaking rules is understanding why they exist, right? So why do the gurus usually recommend a good span of time between the first draft and the revision? And what is my particular answer to this question?
What I’ve almost always done is write another book in between those two processes. With one exception, every time I’ve written a first draft, I’ve gone on to write a first draft for another book before I go back to edit it. The exception is October, but it’s kindof a weird exception. I’ll explain that in a moment.
Why do I write another book first? It’s actually for a few separate but not mutually exclusive reasons. The first is the reason that it’s generally recommended–because if you go away from your project, get some space and step away from it for awhile, you’ll almost always come back with new perspective. You’ll see things in a different light. Things you thought were brilliant just might be kindof okayish. Things that seemed like the absolute worst may appear to have some merit after all. And you will have had some time to mull the story over and conclude what the best moves for improving it will be.
But in my case, there are a couple other reasons that are unique to the writing of a series. For one thing, I want to stay ahead of schedule, which means that when I release one book, the next one is already ready to be edited. It just helps streamline the process a little more. And for another thing, when I write a draft, then write the next episode before coming back to it, I give myself a little more room to change something that might be able to fit into the bigger story a little better.
Let’s say I write one book, then set it aside. In the writing of the next one, I realize it would make for a great plot point if Crash could journey across a certain type of terrain in his journey. That means I can still go back to the previous book and make sure he’s in the right location to start that journey before it’s locked in and published. Or maybe I add a major character in the second book and think it would be better to briefly introduce that person in the first book. It just gives me a little more room to let the series interact with itself.
Like I said, the one exception is October. It’s only sortof an exception, though. True, I started edits almost the day after I finished the first draft, but that’s misleading because the whole way I wrote the book was kindof funky to begin with. I wrote the bulk of it several years ago with huge chunks missing, then I went back much later and filled those in, then edited it–so it was almost like I had written another book in between the two stages. It just happened that the second book consisted of pieces of the first.
Will this process work for you? I have no idea. But I know I love hearing what works for other writers, and that it can be fun to pull ideas from each other as we embark on this crazy voyage of telling and polishing our stories to share with the world, so I hope that this explanation may spark some helpful thoughts for my fellow storytellers!