Monday, September 12, 2011

Guest post with Nicholas Olivo


When I was in college, I interned with the New Hampshire Writers' Project, a group that sponsored writing & publishing themed events like workshops, seminars, and other writerly-type events. My reason for interning with them was a selfish one - I couldn't afford to attend their workshops as a student, so I figured I'd sneak in to them as a quasi-employee. It worked.

During one of those workshops, participants were discussing how long they’d let their pieces sit before submitting them. Several of them said, "Oh, I'll write a poem or a story, then put in a folder and then come back to it in about a year or so. Then I'll take it out, rework it and let it sit for another year."

My reaction to that was "Are you freaking kidding me? How in the hell are you ever going to publish anything if you're doing that?"

I didn't actually say that out loud, because hey, I wanted to keep getting the free workshops, and I needed the internship to graduate. I thought it really hard, though.

It wasn't until I seriously began writing IMPERIUM that I understood those people a little better. By walking away from your work for a time and then coming back to it, you get a fresh perspective on your story. Things that never occurred to you before suddenly jump out - inconsistencies, plot holes, and things that aren't well defined. After several rounds of edits I took a month off from the manuscript. I tinkered with some other things, but mainly wanted to clear my head. I was too close to the book and needed to step back.

During that month, I found things bubbling up at the oddest moments. I'd be in the shower, driving to work, or in the middle of a meal and suddenly realize "Oh, crap. This wouldn't work like this, it'd be like that." I’d write them down as they popped up, and by the time the month was over I had a full sheet of notes.

At the end of the month, I took my notes and a freshly printed copy of the manuscript and went to town. I fixed a lot of problems I hadn't seen before, and the end result was a better story.

So while I'll never be able to let a book just sit for a year, taking time off is definitely a worthwhile part of my writing process.

3 comments:

Lisa said...

Hey I'm missing you IMM videos. Thanks Lisa

25kati said...

Hey thank you! I will hopefully have them back soon. Life has taken over though and I am fighting to keep up. I hope you have a great day and I really do hope to have the IMM's back up soon!

Lindsay said...

I don't usually take a month off at a time these days, but I'll definitely go off and work on something else if my characters are stuck somewhere and I'm not sure what happens next. ;)

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