“Put it on the shelf and forget about it.”

18May10

This was the advice of the many battle-scarred veterans to the question, “what do I do with it when I’m done?”

Contrarian that I am, I decided to listen anyway. I finished Small Fish in September, fiddled with it a tiny bit through October and left it alone. I sent it off to Christine Witthohn (Book Cents Literary) in December, hoping at best to get a ream of  comments along with my rejection. Alas, she said she wanted to represent it, and had only a few suggestions, general instructions, really, for the changes she wanted. “Move the action up front,” she instructed.

Great. No laundry list?

It turns out none was required. During the intervening 5 months, the manuscript might have been sitting on the shelf, but it was far from dormant in my mind. I began to see in the plot where things needed to be amped up, moved forward, moved back. I saw missed opportunities or some that were just squandered. I saw little things and big things – all without laying an eye on a page. It was all just ruminating in that tiny space between my ears. I woke up some nights and thought about it. I drove my car without music (a very odd thing for me).

And now I know exactly what I want to do with the rewrites. I’m ready to carve that thing up like a Christmas ham.

So do put it on the shelf. It’s astounding how much good settles on it with the dust.

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10 Responses to ““Put it on the shelf and forget about it.””

  1. 1 Phillipa

    it’s a tenderising process, like a marinade

  2. 2 M M Bennetts

    That’s it absolutely.

  3. Peter,

    So maybe we should all listen a little more carefully to those wonderful words of tried and true wisdom? So hard for newbies to let their manuscripts sit. The tendency is to send it off the second it’s “done” and really believe it’s done.

    Funny how things look with a little time and a lot of experience.

    Best luck on the rewrites~ cat

  4. 4 Terry

    That’s one bit of advice I believe in. Circumstances were such that I had to let mine set for a while before it was done. It was amazing the things I found wrong when I got back to it.

    It was great your agent thought it didn’t need a lot of reworking. I can see why. Your writing is so good. Good luck with your revisions.

  5. 5 Sian

    A good wine gets better with the keeping.

    Fantastic!

  6. Nice! A little ruminating did a world of good. I like to work on another while I have one stewing. I wonder if the re-works still occur to one as easily, if you’re already at work on another ms. Hmmm. Have a great day!

  7. Congrats on landing the agent, Pete! And I couldn’t agree with you more re: letting a book sit. Has your agent started sending it out yet? –Jude

    • 8 Peter

      Hahahahahaha – noooo, I’m just starting the rewrites, which is akin somewhat to reshuffling a deck of cards.

  8. The longest I left Orchid alone was three months, but even that rendered my eyes able to see new things while I got a good start on the sequel, which is now finished and in rewrite 1.
    Congrats, Pete, on getting representation!

  9. Hi there! Congrats to you! Letting something sit for a while definitely helps in the long run…as hard as it is to leave it alone in the interim, LOL!


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