LETTING YOUR WRITING SIMMER
One of the most important lessons I've learned about writing--and one
of its most difficult aspects for many of us--is what I've come to
call the "simmering process."
You've just finished an article, story or query letter, and you get
that adrenaline rush that comes with the completion of a job well
done. Your prose sings. That opening paragraph, the one you'd
struggled with for days, is perhaps one of the finest things you've
ever written. Not one word wasted, and nary a dangling participle.
You simply can't wait to ship it off to the editor, or your agent, or
But that's exactly what you have to do--wait. In other words, let it
simmer a day or two.
But why wait? The sooner you send it out, the sooner you'll get the
acceptance, the byline, the paycheck, right?
Well, maybe. On the other hand, you might be sending your work out
before it's truly finished. The piece might still be undercooked, a
little raw on the inside. And at this point, having just put what
you thought was the final touch on your creation, you might be
standing too close to it to spot its imperfections.
I have learned to let my essays and articles simmer, like a pot of
stew on the stove, before submitting them. And it constantly amazes
me, what I see in an article or essay I've written, after I've
stepped away from it for a while. Typos and poor word selections seem
to jump off the page at me, which I can now correct and improve.
That wonderful paragraph that I once believed I could not live
without appears unnecessary now, so I remove it. I replace that
original lame title with a perfect one, one that will more likely
beckon an editor to read it.
It happens every time. No matter how terrific the concept, how
skillful the writing, I find that putting some distance between me
and what I've written allows the seasonings in my words to work their
If you're still itching to show your masterpiece prematurely, try
throwing yourself into an entirely new writing project, or take a
walk, or clean out your garage. I guarantee that once you return to
it, and view it with a fresh eye, you'll find flaws you can fix and
untapped potential you can unleash. Your end result will be a
something that you'll be proud to put your name on.
Here's to your writing success!
About the Author
Mary Anne Hahn is editor and publisher of WriteSuccess, the free
biweekly ezine for writers who want to pursue successful full-time
writing careers. To subscribe, send a blank email to: