You’ve spent months on it.
Hours with your backside planted firmly in the seat of your chair, staring at your monitor and, hopefully, pounding the keyboard. The novel is finished.
Now what do you do?
Almost everybody who’s ever gone through the process recommends you forget the very thing you’ve sweated and slaved over. Turn your mind away from all that work. Let the manuscript grow cold, so you can go back to it with a fresh eye, like a reader reading it for the first time.
How do you do that?
Here are some things I do during that cooling down period.
1. Read Someone Else’s Work
The best way to keep your mind off your own work is to enjoy someone else’s. Do you have a stack of books on your To Be Read pile? Now’s the time to tackle a couple of them.
2. Hone Your Craft
Take a writing lesson. They’re available online, through writer’s organizations, publications like The Writer’s Digest, and many other places.
Many successful authors have also written about the craft of writing. I like James Scott Bell’s books, but there are others. Find a book you’ve always wanted to read or maybe one that has a current buzz and sink your literary teeth into it.
If it has writing exercises or lessons, do those. They will improve your writing skills. You may also be surprised how much they prompt ideas.
3. How About a New Story?
Sometimes the best way to pass the two to four weeks between completing the first draft and starting the second is to explore some new ideas. If you’re a pantser, work on whatever scenes come to mind.
If you’re a plotter, do whatever you do to get the development phase started.
4. Random Writing
Find writing prompts and make your own exercises by using them as jumping off points.
Experiment with genres outside your usual work or write random scenes, whatever comes to mind.
There’s nothing wrong with turning from writing altogether for the cooling off period. If you like jigsaw puzzles, but couldn’t spare the time for them while writing, put one together now.
How about yard work?
Or dabbling in art or something else you’ve been wanting to do.
The ideas are as limitless as your imagination, so don’t be shy.
The End of the Matter….
There are a gillion other things you could do while waiting for the second draft work to begin. The key is to remember that this is your vacation from creative work. Make the most of it, even if you do head to the library for a good book to read or to do a little research.
And remember, it is okay to make notes on that first draft. You can’t stop the questions, thoughts or ideas that will pop into your mind concerning that newly finished story. It’s perfectly acceptable to jot them down. In fact, it’s a good idea. There’s nothing quite so frustrating as knowing you had a good idea but are unable to remember it when the time comes to get started again.
Keep something to write on and write with handy at all times so those interesting tidbits can be recorded. You can type them, too, if you want to.
The end of the matter is that the purpose of the cooling off period for a manuscript at any stage is to give your mind a rest from it. These things work for me.