I find that when I am in the thick of my WIP, it’s impossible to have any distance from it. This is true of every aspect: the situations, the characters and even the words. And while I don’t have distance, I can’t tell what needs to be improved.
That’s when I let it be.
I leave my completed first draft in a folder on a bookcase and I ignore it for a while. It’s best if I get stuck into something else. Sometimes, this ‘something else’ is another WIP – let’s call it WIP2 – the first draft of which can easily take me a year.
When I come back to WIP1, I can immediately see what isn’t right, plot-wise or word-wise. I also find that in the time I’ve been away my characters have grown and I understand them even more fully than I did before.
After a break, I’m less precious about my WIP1. This is when the editing can really take off. I can brutally cut whole chunks without getting nostalgic and sentimental. It’s as if, in the time we’ve been apart – my WIP and I – we’ve separated enough for me to be a different writer when tending to it.
A year? I hear you cry. Don’t worry. We’re all different. Perhaps you don’t have to let your WIP sit that long or perhaps you have to let it sit longer.
Call me slow, I don’t mind, but I get there in the end.