My editor once told me I should put a manuscript away for six months before trying to revise it. Was she crazy? Who has that kind of time? Who has that kind of patience? When I finish a first draft, I can't wait to start revising. Maybe I'll wait a weekend. Or a week if I've got a really great book to read and a huge to-do list to conquer. But I'll be itching to get to that revision. And I'll be calculating how quickly I can revise it and how fast my agent can sell it. I'll have a contract by fall, I think. Or winter. Or spring. Or summer. The book will be published in no time. I'll have to update my website and hope for good reviews and plan promotions and...
Wait a minute. It never ever goes that way. The publishing industry moves at a snail's pace. Agents take weeks to read your work. Editors take months to reject it. When you do finally get an offer, it takes years for the book to actually come out. This is the process. There is no fighting it. It can be incredibly frustrating, but recently I've discovered the positive side to this long, drawn-out journey: Objectivity.
Yes, my editor was right all along. (She is always right about everything, actually.) You need time away from a manuscript to see it clearly and to make it the best it can be. Case in point, my new middle grade novel that my agent and I really love. She's been submitting it for months, and editors have been rejecting it with the loveliest rejection letters I've ever received. I can blame the state of the industry all I want (and I do a little bit), but really, obviously, there's something wrong with the manuscript. Something I need to fix.
And guess what? Six months away from the story gave me the perspective I needed to see what needs to be done. It also gave my critique partners perspective, too. They gave me some perfect suggestions that I can't wait to use. So I'm diving back into revisions, even though my new young adult manuscript is quite a bit jealous that I'm leaving her for a while. Don't worry, I'll be back! Maybe even with some helpful objectivity.