The “Cooling Off” Period
So I finished yet another first draft for a novel. I’ve come to the part of creating that many writers suggest, the cooling off period. Some call it “letting the manuscript rest” or “getting away from the story for a bit.” This is the time after completing that first draft that you walk away from the manuscript and let it rest for an extended amount of time. This is supposed to disconnect you from the story and give you a chance to see it “fresh” eyes.
File this under: Reasons Your Book Isn’t Published Yet.
I’ve tried this cooling off period before and I don’t see any point in it. I find it as nothing more than wasting time when you could be getting that book ready for market by starting the second draft. Instead you waste a month, two months, or even six months waiting for some magic to make you forget the story. If you are really passionate about what you write you won’t forget the story. I think this is just a stall tactic for writers to avoid something they hate… editing. It is also a great way to avoid the even scarier prospect of publishing your work.
Editing is important, and it is necessary to get your work published. This paranoia that you will miss something if you don’t let it rest is irrational. You will have beta readers to catch what you miss, you will have an editor to catch anything else that slips through. So why do we need to waste time with this cooling off period?
I wanted to try this cooling off period. I really did. As I finished this manuscript I told myself to give it a rest, wait a month and dive back in. But come on. A whole month? There is no way I can do that. It has barely been a week and I am shaking with the need to reread and edit it. It is driving me nuts. I can’t focus on any other projects because all I can think of is Liam, Rachel and Talya waiting for me to share their story with the world. So all this cooling off crap is going out the window.
I say that you should throw it out too. Get your book out there.
But a lack of patience isn’t the only reason to skip this. I’ve talked about those writers stuck in the revision cycle. They are stuck revising their story again, and again, and again. The story never goes anywhere. And I have to say that this cooling off period plays right into this. As you go back and check over the manuscript and you wait again. Then you find more. Then you want to change this. Now let it cool off again. Oh, and now I need to change this. Oh, great now another author has come out with something similar so let me change that. And now, let it rest again. And, ah hell it has been three years since I wrote this, I know so much more now.
Guess what? You’re still not published.
I don’t think that people realize just how much time they waste on this tactic. I’ve heard the argument that you can write something else while you wait. Which I understand. But if a story is yelling for you to work on it, why hide it in the closet? And even if you do write another manuscript, unless you get past the cooling off period, all you have is a collection of manuscripts with no readers.
Personally I think you should go with what works for you, so long as you keep pumping out fiction. But I think the cooling off period does little more than waste time and give writers a false belief that they can fully edit their own work.