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Robert's Rules of Writing #27: Let It Marinate

[Rule quoted from Robert's Rules of Writing: 101 Unconventional Lessons Every Writer Needs to Know by Robert Masello (Writer's Digest Books, 2005). See my original post for the rules of this discussion.]

Masello's next two rules have to do with the question of when a manuscript is ready to go out the door. We'll tackle them one at a time.

In his short essay on letting a manuscript marinate, Masello doesn't mean that you should soak your manuscript in a nice sauce or marinade after you're done writing it. (Yum!) Instead, he advocates waiting for a short time before sending your manuscript out into the world as a submission. Once a work is finished, a writer tends to be eager to see it go out the door, but Masello warns that problems might ensue.

Why? Because perhaps the manuscript still isn't completely ready. He says that if you put aside the manuscript and avoid reading it, when you come back to it you will often find problems with the text because you were too close to the work as you were writing it. Approaching the work with a pair of fresh eyes will allow you to see flaws that you might have missed before.

How long should you let your work marinate? Masello suggests a day or two for shorter pieces and perhaps a week or two for longer works.

Personally, I tend to agree with Masello that it's always good to have a pair of fresh eyes read over any manuscript. But there are times when a deadline might prevent you from waiting that day or two that Masello advises. In situations like that, I tend to rely on a second reader to look over my work and make sure I haven't committed any serious blunders. (Frequent readers know that I'm referring to gnomi here, who even reads almost all my blog posts before I post them.) After all, the freshest pair of eyes is someone else's.


It's not just mss.

If I've type a prescription, and done all the filling, I'll try hard to not check it right away, because I know I will gloss over it. Instead, I will work on another one, even if only briefly. Then I will go back to the first one, checking it with fresh eyes.
And with prescriptions, it's even more vital than with stories that you get it right...

December 2016

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