If you've been following along with Writing 101 and Writing 102, you've written a first draft. Congratulations! Now what?


A portrait of how you should look after finishing your first draft

Read that. Read it again. Again, and again, and again until you fucking get it. Burning out is the worst you can do, and right now your mind is so full of plot lines used and unused that if you tried to edit you'd fail by trying to literally re-write the damn thing instead of editing it. Also, you're so familiar with your work you'll go cross-eyed and bored. Seriously, every time I finish a first draft I am fantasizing about my next work. By the time I'm done editing I am so fucking bored of it I want to kill it with fire.

The good news is that once completely done, after a year, you'll pick it up, read it, and think "wow, this is actually pretty good. I forgot about that detail." For now you have to approximate that distance of time. Just as with a bad relationship until time can bring you far enough away, you'll settle for geographical space, and substitutes.

So you need to take an active break. What does that mean? You have to keep your mind in the world of your genre. As someone wise once said, the best way to get over someone is to get under someone. So you're going to read books and watch movies other people wrote until you can come back to your own work feeling refreshed. That should never take less than a week and never more than a month.


Just hear me out, there really is good reason for time off


A word of caution: the writer is an excitable animal. A dozen times a day a great story idea hits you. Just write it down and move on. I'd give my eye teeth to be writing a science fiction story about a cop in the last days before known and unavoidable Armageddon but it's going to have wait. A few years at the very least. It's sooooooo good and dark and gritty but there's just not time. We writers always have to let our practical side and creative side battle it out. Let your practical side win this battle or your creative side will collapse from exhaustion.

To avoid that urge you need to avoid books and movies outside your genre. If you wrote a romance, don't go watching Star Wars or you're going to want to write a space epic. I don't give a damn what your personal preferences are, there's time for that later. Wrote a romance? Go read a few, watch some romantic movies.

Pay attention to genre. Did you write a historical romance? Then eschew the modern ones. Did you write a sci-fi novel set in modern times, slightly alternate universe? Then avoid George R.R. Martin for the moment. Think back to the books that inspired you. Surely there have to be a few. It might be a good time to re-read those and put yourself back in the right frame of mind.Go read the ones most similar to what you wrote. The writing-from-scratch phase is over so you don't have to worry about subconscious accidental plagiarism.

What about movies? Here you can fudge a little. Try to stick close to your genre. If you wrote a historical romance, stick to movies like Dangerous Beauty. However, let's say you wrote a historical romance, but there's a mystery to solve. If it's gothic, Jane Eyre might be good movie to watch. Maybe the subplot is rags-to-riches, in which case Ever After could be good.


No, porn does NOT count, this is not how you want to end up after your break

 Not sure what to watch? Here are my suggested titles:

Action/Adventure Epics (Ancient)
One man on a course to change history, fighting his way to a date with destiny

Action/Adventure epics (Modern)
One man against the world, against the odds

Coming of Age
 Young men & women discover reality is much more harsh than they ever dreamed

With a tinge of sci-fi/fantasy, the world is not what it seems and only one man can save it

Fantasy (Ancient)
The 12 Step hero myth can be magical and funny too
Fantasy (Modern)
The 12 steps of the hero myth happen in the mind, and though it may end well, it will be a dark journey

That creeping feeling...is it madness, or should you be truly afraid?

Science is the exploration of the unknown...but what darkness lays with the hope?

Mystery (Period)
Theft, blackmail, or death has occurred, but modern forensics has yet to be born

Mystery (Modern)
Unanswered questions at every turn threaten one man's life, and blur the line between cop and criminal

Noir (Classic)
Life takes risks, but when you miscalculate, down the rabbit hole you go
Noir (Modern)
When women go wrong, men go right after them

Revenge (Ancient)
A soul in torment, the ultumate betrayal requires the ultimate vengeance

Revenge (Modern)
Pushed too far, Mr. Nice Guy turns Mr. BadAss

Romance (Historical)
One not-so ordinary woman, one man of great potential, the fate of history depends on their fragile love

Romance (Regency)
9 Years of British History spawned it's own romance genre. Hell, so did NASCAR. Don't ask me why.

Romance (Middle)
Love didn't get lost between 1820 and today. It just dwelled mainly on the battlefield, in tthe American frontier, and crept into the workplace

Romance (Modern)
Modern life is complicated and so is love. Until you discover who you are, you won't know who to love

Sci-Fi (Past)
Time plays tricks here: the past was concerned with the future, our present, and reveals humanity's deepest fears

Sci-Fi (Present)
In a dimension slightly different than our own, only 1 thing is different, but this difference leads to an examination of the human soul

Sci-Fi (Future)
Left unchecked humanity runs a dark course, and one man on a journey of self-discovery has no idea he will change the world for good

Stories of men and women who live by the gun, and the dark consequences that come from toeing the line between good and bad. Oh, and the most epic mustaches you'll ever see.

I hope that that helps. Remember to take a break for at least a week. Recharge and refresh. Keep your mind in the game by reading books in your genre, and watching movies that are similar. When you start to feel truly, deeply excited about your project, it will be time to edit. Since editing is the biggest pain in the ass, let it wait.