I’ve heard it called many things: percolation, marination, steeping, aging, letting it rest, stuffing it in a drawer, putting it out back under the woodpile so critters can gnaw it to shreds. (Okay, I made the last one up.)
No, I’m not talking about any process to enhance the taste of food or wine. I’m talking about what to do with a first draft before you begin rewriting it.
For many, the temptation to begin revising five minutes after typing “THE END” is strong (of course, others want to find the nearest paper shredder), but I urge you to wait a while before diving in.
I like to think of my brain as a multi-tasking computer (albeit much slower and much more error-prone), processing things in the background. While I sleep, while I do my mundane chores, while I sit in traffic jams, the semi-conscious part of my brain is thinking about how to improve my story. How can my protagonist be more proactive? What cool plot twist can I incorporate into the third act? Why is my character eating Froot Loops and not Cheerios?
Waiting gives me a fresh perspective. After I’ve just spent several months writing about a certain cast of characters, I’m too close to them (and the story) to see the soft spots. (Of course, it helps to have a spotty memory—after only a few days, it seems like I’m reading an entirely new manuscript!)
What about you? Do you wait before revising, or do you dive right in? And if you wait, how long do you sit on your hands?