Thursday, March 19, 2009

Writing Tip: Simmering

My writing pal, Tina Nichols Coury (of Rushmore Kid fame) recently asked me to share a writing tip for her blog. Wow--hard to do since there are so many bits of advice that any experienced writer could serve up. After weeks of not getting back to her because every time I thought about it my thoughts bubbled over and I couldn't decide on just one, I finally responded to her this morning. I sent her a tip (I'll post a link when she sets it up on her blog) but another one came to mind that I wanted to share.

Let your work "simmer." There is a tremendous value in setting aside your work for a few days. I call it simmering because it reminds me of making a yummy soup or stew. You have to put all the right ingredients together into one pot (an interesting character(s), a strong plot, vivid language, action, a great hook, etc.) then put it aside so everything can blend together and emerge as a delicious masterpiece.

It's hard to do sometimes--especially when you're in the groove and excited about working on something. But once you get over that initial "I'm gonna bust if I don't work on this" phase, set it aside (and out of sight). In a drawer. On top of a cabinet. In the freezer. Whatever works for you.

While it's set aside, you're gaining distance from it on a conscious level. However, I believe on a subconscious level, you're still thinking on it. Sometimes these thoughts even surface to the conscious brain, in which case you can make a note on a Post-It, and stick it on the manuscript (don't be tempted to apply it to the story--that's for later).

After a few days (at least one week, preferably two), pull out the manuscript and viola! Fresh eyes and a clear mind will allow you to see your story more objectively. You'll be able to spot inconsistencies and find places where clarification is needed. You'll even discover places for improved word choices. And you might even see a spot or two where your once thought-to-be brilliance doesn't really pan out (trust me, been there-done that!).

So be patient...let it simmer...and work on another story in the meantime.