True confessions. I’m a pantser and a scroller. And while I don’t particularly want to change either trait, one habit I have changed over the years is to take nine (days), whenever possible.
Take nine days? For what? Quite simply, to wait.
Remember the old nursery rhyme?
Pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold,
Pease porridge in the pot, nine days old;
Some like it hot, some like it cold,
Some like it in the pot, nine days old.
As a scroller I’m constantly editing, constantly tasting the porridge. When I sit down each day to write, I go back through the last few pages from the prior day, edit, and then pick up the thread of my story to add new words. As a pantser, since I don’t have a chapter outline but instead write by the seat-of-my-pants, details, choreography of characters from scene to scene, timelines, and so on can be slightly skewed from week to week, sometimes even day to day. To help straighten the skewing, upon “completion” of a chapter I typically print it out, change chairs, grab a cup of tea (not porridge), and edit yet again. But a chapter might also veer from its predecessor and that’s where the nine days helps. A lot.
So when do I actually take nine days? When I’m ready for a serious, sit down, no interruptions, put-this-sucker-to-bed edit, I try to wait a minimum of nine days between the moment when my eyes last gazed upon that particular manuscript or chapters or whatever, and actually grabbing a pen for a focused edit. By doing this, by reading with eyes nine days “new,” I have caught numerous mistakes, stupid language choices, and even more importantly, have been astonished at how my story might actually take flight, or alas, miserably fail.
With my habit of scrolling every day I’ve already read each paragraph twelve or nineteen times while still roughing out the entire document, but that fresh read, when the porridge is cooked and nine days old, always reveals something I’ve never noticed in my day-to-day edits. If you can take nine days (or more), you will likely be surprised, occasionally think that someone else penned your words, and find yourself far more objective as you run through final edits.
So if you can find the time, take nine!
(This time next week? Join me for Crazy Eights - The Query Game!)