There are lots of things a writer needs: determination, a fertile mind, a grasp of the language they’ve chosen to write in. But I’d add patience as a major virtue.
So much of what we as writers do involves taking our time, cooling our heels, waiting. Even for people who write fairly fast, books always take far longer to finish than we think, and editing often takes lifetimes. Then there’s the waiting game while submissions are out with agents, then once we’ve found that dream agent, there’s more waiting time while the agent sells our work. Then…you guessed it- more waiting once the editor, senior editor, marketing, and the entire company debate whether your book can make money. And a yes answer leads to lots more waiting.
But today I’d like to talk about a much more subtle patience, the ability to pull back, to keep a work from being finished, or if done, keep it from going out because something isn’t quite right. I just recently went back into editing my steampunk book after a hiatus. When I finished it I knew I wasn’t totally happy with the climax and ending, but kept editing around it.
Then a few months ago I ripped the weak parts out. Otherwise I’d keep coddling them. Then I did the hardest thing for any writer to do- I ignored the book. I started a new one, did edits on the others. But my problem child needed time. I had to give it and I time to forget the original climax and ending, and to re-build a new one.
Of course if you wait long enough, you need to re-read and edit your entire story to get back to that trouble spot. Got there yesterday. I’m still working on re-building the missing chunk, but it’s so much easier to do with time between me and my original mis-step.
What about you? Have you ever stepped away from a project? Or the opposite, have you sent something out without giving it a time-out?