The leave to mature trick

I seem to have got into the habit of completing a first draft of a novel and then leaving it for some time before working on it again.

As I handwrite all my first drafts (I have blogged on that before) my second draft is the first electronic version and also the first time I get chance to properly restructure the book. I don't think I'll ever change this approach - doing it the old-fashioned way MAKES you get the plot and its various component steps pretty much right first time; I'd get lazy and more relaxed about this key element if I had the flexibilty of electronic drafts first off.

But it is not that that is the subject of this post, it's the 'leave and come back to' aspect of this process I want to write about.

I have come across this in many writing guides and in workshops so I am pleased that I have, virtually by accident, adopted this technique.

I know I wrote the thing in the first place but although I have the outline in my head I always find that I've forgotten the detail. It is remarkable how fresh it all seems to me (although I am worried that advancing age is giving me the retentive memory ability of a goldfish!). I even find myself reading on from the bit I'm typing up to see what heppens next - which has to be a good sign!

I do think that this is the reason why this technique is so effective and recommended; we all like fresh, new things. Going straight into a re-work of a piece that you have just finished is going to find you bored with it; it's stale, uninteresting, you know it too well. I am sure that is the reason why, when I've tried this in the past, I get nowhere and progressively make the piece worse.

Going back to the novel I'm working on now, The Honey Talker, I'd totally forgotten how much I'd gone to town with my main 'baddy'. Boy, is he evil! I've just done one of my 'cheats' and read ahead to a section where a transcript of an interview describes what this character, Mickey Smith, does to one of his henchmen who crossed him...Hell, I didn't think I was that sort of writer! Anyway that is to come; maybe I will launch an excerpt onto the world as a preview, but going back to this issue, leave your words to stew.

They may not mature like a fine wine but you will be able look at them with fresh eyes when next you see them and make the chances of a sucessful edit far higher.