Here we go: For how long do you shelve your first draft, before reading it and re-drafting? Is this dependent on your writing experience and the number of stories/books under your belt?
I put it aside for a minimum of 30 days, regardless of genre. I didn’t always, but I’ve found that this technique helps tremendously. It allows me to see plot holes, and figure out whether I even want to proceed with publication.
Thing is, I never delete work completely. I have come back to a manuscript a couple of years later, for example Hugs and Hisses, and discovered that work which initially disappointed me was actually quite good. It just needed to be right time/season for me to see that. Another disappointing manuscript eventually became the Pocketful of Stories series as I pulled out all of the useful bits and left the rest behind.
Without having the perspective of that 30-day minimum break, I wouldn’t have been able to see the flaws or good qualities very well at all. Deciding to put things on the proverbial shelf for a while has made an enormous difference in my authorial process.
I think I have my Cranky Pants(TM) on as I write this post. It’s Frequently Asked Question time and, as is so often the case, this one comes from the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.
Here is the question, verbatim:
Has any of your readers ever responded to your writing in a way that you didn’t expect? If so, did it surprise you?
Now, like I said, maybe I’m just cranky. The subject/verb agreement issue in the first sentence isn’t the end of the world. But I can’t help thinking, If I didn’t expect it, isn’t it automatically a surprise? I mean, that’s the literal definition of the word.
I guess the one example that comes to mind was a reviewer who wrote that a certain scene in In The Eye of The Storm left her in tears. Honestly, I felt like I’d done my job: I moved someone. Isn’t that what art is supposed to do? I certainly think so.
Some people might say that by writing about these issues, I’m doing something risky. I don’t think so. All art is intended to be thought-provoking.
Honestly, I think I took a bigger risk when I took a sternwheeler ride on the Mississippi River when researching Bayou Fire than in anything I’ve ever written. I’m a lousy sailor, but I got on that boat anyway so that I could see what it was like to ride one and understand how it worked.
At the end of the day, shouldn’t we all be extending ourselves just a little bit for our art?
Everyone has a favorite genre or genres to write. But what about your reading preferences? Do you read widely or only within the genre(s) you create stories for? What motivates your reading choice?
I think it’s crucial for authors to read widely … and not just in the genre they write. Branch outside your comfort zone. Sure, you may find that not everything is to your taste, but you’ll know what’s out there. If you most frequently read (or write) cozy mysteries, check out some noir or historicals. You never know; you might, as I did, find a new favorite author or two in the process. You will learn things about pacing, vocabulary, creating tension, and more if you expand your reading habits.
(Photo by the author, taken a couple of years ago. This stack includes books that came home with me from Heather Graham’s Writers for New Orleans in 2018, books from a swap shelf at the office, and those sent for review. Numerous genres and authors represented.)
Blogging is often more than just sharing stories. It’s often the start of special friendships and relationships. Have you made any friends through the blogosphere?
It may help to know that WordPress is not my first rodeo as a blogger. I was on Livejournal in the early 2000s (I have a paid, permanent account), but I was part of the exodus after the Russian company bought it out and laid down some heavy censorship. I also had an author blog over at GoodReads starting in 2009; this blog is now sent there via RSS.
So, when you consider that I’ve been part of the blogosphere for 20+ years, it makes sense that I have indeed made friends this way. Back when we were still traveling, we would meet up when one of us was in town (whoever’s town it was) and have dinner and/or drinks. It’s been wonderful getting to know the folks who were, at first, just pixels on the screen.
What doesn’t make sense is asking a closed question (i.e., yes or no) as a writing prompt.