Stepping Back

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Once you’ve gotten your story out on paper, you’ll probably be very excited to make a few improvements and get it out into the world. Don’t. If you think your story is ready for readers, take a deep breath and reconsider. 

Many writers are driven by a need not only to create but to share their creation and to be praised for it. They box themselves into very short deadlines that match their impatience. This is a terrible idea! Here’s a very simple tip when it comes to writing: chill. 

Pushing your half-baked story out into the world doesn’t help anybody. It doesn’t help your career, it doesn’t help you to grow as a writer, and it certainly doesn’t help whatever poor reader has to sift through it. It isn’t anything but a waste of everyone’s time. 

THE ONLY WAY FORWARD IS TO FORGET 

If you have any hope of seeing your story objectively, you must forget all the reasons you filled it up with this or that little unnecessary detail in the first place.

As writers, we justify including a lot of information on the page, information that we think is imperative to the story. But the reader doesn’t see it the same way. The very things you think are essential, the reader will find cumbersome and redundant. Your reader is smart and picks up information the first time you either say it or imply it. Each time you step back, your approach your story more and more like a reader, not a writer. So put it away in a drawer and don't open it again for at least one week.

GIVE YOURSELF TIME TO THINK

Much of the writing process takes place off the page. Stepping back provides a good opportunity to think about your story and how to improve what you’ve already done. And there’s always room for improvement. I love this quote from an interview with the poet Charles Simic, who said, “Many of my shortest and seemingly simple poems took years to get right. I tinker with most of my poems even after publication. I expect to be revising in my coffin as it is being lowered into the ground.”

Of course, you’ll always see your story from the perspective of its creator, but by stepping back and coming at it with a bit of distance, you’ll get closer and closer to the view of your reader.