Sometimes the best thing we can do for our writing is to not write. You heard me. Stop writing! Instead, turn your thoughts to something else for a while. Read a book. Go fishing, to the beach, for a walk. Do anything else. Think about anything other than your work-in-progress. It could be for just a day, or for a week, or maybe an extended vacation where you don’t have your computer or your manuscript anywhere nearby. You’ll come back with a clearer vision of what you’ve written.
That’s what I’ve done. While in Canada fishing I did take a couple hours mid-week to make revisions to my last chapter. It was a rainy day and the others wanted to go out anyway but I wasn’t that enthused that I was willing to sit in the rain, so I took a day off from fishing to finish the rewrite of my novel I’d been working on for so long. I wanted to have that step done while I still had the momentum of my changes pushing my brain along. But then I set it aside and for about a week and a half I didn’t touch it; didn’t open the computer file or the binder with my hard copy. I tried not to think about it but that was a little more difficult. I knew I wanted to have one more go-through but I wanted to do it with fresh eyes.
You see, our eyes read what they expect to see so we miss typos, read right over where we’ve switched point of view or used the wrong character’s name. (It took a friend’s read to point out to me I’d used my heroine’s dead husband’s name in place of her new love’s. Yikes! No, Earl had not been visiting Mary. This is not a paranormal romance.) We become so in love with our own writing abilities that our “baby” still looks beautiful to us even though she’s been playing in the mud all day and needs a good scrubbing, clean clothes, and maybe even a haircut.
So I opened that binder with red pen in hand. I’m reading “Mary Bishop” the way my readers will, on paper. (Except for the red pen, I hope.) I’m reading from start to finish and I won’t open the computer file until I’m done. You see, the words look different on paper than on the computer screen. They look “fresh”. When I was slowly creating it chapter by chapter I didn’t get to experience the story as a whole. Now I’m listening to Mary tell her story uninterrupted and, yes, even though this is not my first revision, I’ve found a few more typos.
Stop writing! I say it again. Take a break. Rejoin the real world of real people and real summer sunshine. Then, when you do go back to your writing, you’ll have a clearer picture of whether or not it really says what you want it to say. Take an example from this seagull. He just feasted on the leavings from our shore lunch and now he’s just floating along enjoying the afternoon. He’s not worried at all whether or not he remembered to fact-check that important historic detail.