Let your first draft rest (minimum: six weeks).

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FindingGila

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Aug 30, 2014
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In On Writing, Stephen King recommends that once one finishes their first draft (of a novel), they should immediately put it away (let it rest) for a minimum of six weeks.

And while the first draft is resting away, one could (or should) start a new project (something entirely different and/or shorter) or get back to one's everyday life again.

The route I have taken (with the first draft of my novella complete), is to almost immediately embark on writing a totally different genre short story (something in the length of four to six thousand words).

I'm crafting it at one thousands words per day, and should be done shortly (obviously).

My question is, how long should I put it (the short story) away to rest, before rewriting and revising it? Six weeks too? Or for shorter works, do you all think Stephen King would recommend a shorter time frame?

I'm totally new at this craft, so any and all input is much appreciated.
 

Moderator

Ms. Mod
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Jul 10, 2006
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Welcome to the Board! As you write and rewrite more you'll find your own rhythm for what works best for you as what works for Steve may not be the same. It may have as much to do with the story material as the length, i.e. a lighter theme wouldn't require as much distance but in general he would probably recommend less time for a short story.
 

Mr Nobody

Well-Known Member
Jul 9, 2008
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Walsall, England
Welcome to the Board. I think in my humble, non writer-ish way, do what is right, and works, for you, and only you.
This. (And welcome, btw.)
As a guide to the craft, there's none better (IMO) than On Writing...but it is just a guide, and as Ms Mod also said, what works for SK might not work half as well for you.
The best answer I can give is to play it by ear, every time.
(And either befriend or find a good editor for when you've got a draft you're happy with; you'll never catch everything yourself.)
 

Bryan James

Well-Known Member
Apr 3, 2009
5,150
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South Cackalacky
Hi.

It's gonna be different for everyone.

When I finish an adequate-but-crapfeely project I can start a new (or work on an existing) thing immediately.

When I finalize something that I think is great, I get a little postwritum depression and need to take some time off.

It is generally good to shelf early drafts of larger works so you can "read with fresh eyes." If it goes stale on you, it's because it wasn't a great idea in the first place.
 

skimom2

Just moseyin' through...
Oct 9, 2013
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This. (And welcome, btw.)
As a guide to the craft, there's none better (IMO) than On Writing...but it is just a guide, and as Ms Mod also said, what works for SK might not work half as well for you.
The best answer I can give is to play it by ear, every time.
(And either befriend or find a good editor for when you've got a draft you're happy with; you'll never catch everything yourself.)
images-1.jpeg
 

CathyWeeks

Member
Jul 13, 2016
6
23
Minneapolis area
I know this is an old thread, but as a writer (and one of those writers who - ahem - took a job teaching others to write) I think I can answer this.

Let the draft rest until you regain your objectivity, however long that may be. That's going to vary based on what kind of writing it, how long it is, how hard it was to write it. It varies from writer to writer. You'll get a sense of how long you need, with some time and experience. Six weeks is as good a place to start as any, but definitely no less than two.

When I finish a story/blog post/editorial, I think it's the greatest thing EVER. It's the great American novel, and I'm going to win a goddamn Pulitzer. A few weeks later, and my impression is quite different. What is this ****e? Did I write this?? What was I thinking? A few weeks after that, and it starts to seem like maybe it has potential. Something I can work with, and meld into something reasonable.

I can edit and revise it right away, but I don't really start to be able to see it with objective eyes for at least a couple of weeks. I have a Nanowrimo novel (all of 8 pages long) from a couple of years ago, and I'm so objective about it now, that it's like reading someone else's writing.

The one kind of writing that I can revise immediately and do so objectively is technical writing. But that's because there is zero artistry to it. Good technical writing is clear, clean, easy-to-understand, consistent, and simple. The sentences are short, and passive voice isn't avoided (though I do work to keep it at a minimum). You don't paint pictures in people's minds - that's what actual images are for. There is no room for interpretation. (Though, one of the most humbling of experiences in my tech writing life was the time we had people actually follow our instructions, to see whether it worked).
 

CathyWeeks

Member
Jul 13, 2016
6
23
Minneapolis area
I thought of something else - if someone tries to give you constructive criticism on your work (and they aren't being total jerks about it), and it hurts your feelings, then it's probably too soon, and it hasn't rested long enough. SK's description of your characters (which I believe are extensions of yourself, at least a little) as "little darlings" is completely apt.
 

Dana Jean

Dirty Pirate Hooker, The Return
Moderator
Apr 11, 2006
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The High Seas
I thought of something else - if someone tries to give you constructive criticism on your work (and they aren't being total jerks about it), and it hurts your feelings, then it's probably too soon, and it hasn't rested long enough. SK's description of your characters (which I believe are extensions of yourself, at least a little) as "little darlings" is completely apt.
SK was referring to editing as "kill your darlings." Those were the things you thought were brilliant pieces of writing, but have to edit out.