I heard this tip during a panel at a writing conference. Around me, the attendees groaned or exclaimed with shock. I didn't like the idea any better than they did, but I knew the writer offered great advice.
One of the worst things a writer can do is finish their novel and try to submit or edit it immediately. Why? For the same reason I tell my business writing students to not proofread their own documents. You will read what you expect to read and miss glaring and subtle problems. If they can't have someone else proofread a business document, I advise them to let it sit for a time before checking it for problems. The same advice works for creative writing.
It's amazing what you'll discover if you wait.
I've forced myself to revisit my work weeks or months later and been surprised by the issues I discover. Of course, there's the typical typos, but what else have I discovered?
- verb tense changes in the same passage
- point of view shifts within a scene
- unclear passages or dialogue
- shifts in narrative tone
- time line out of whack
I know we want to get our work in front of agents or readers quickly, but agents don't ask for full manuscripts when the first few pages are full of problems. Not worried about an agent? Then how many times have you read Amazon reviews fussing about the typos in a book?
It's better to get it right rather than finish it fast.
What problems have you discovered after letting your work sit for a while?