I recently reread a manuscript I hadn’t touched in over two years. Because I wanted to experience the story as a reader, I loaded the manuscript on my kindle and curled up in bed with it. The results were fascinating.
First, as I was reading, I literally couldn’t remember what came next. Sure, I knew the overall arc of the story, but I’d forgotten the details of how the events played out. I even surprised myself a few times — which was pretty fun. It was definitely the closest I’ve ever come to experiencing one of my own books as a reader.
Second, and more importantly, I had a startling realization. The story in my head was not the story on the page. I still thought of my characters the way they were originally conceived. But I had revised the manuscript so many times, so many scenes had been moved or deleted, that some of them bore little resemblance to who they were supposed to be. And the people they became on the page? Not nearly as endearing.
It wasn’t a hard fix, since many of the scenes already existed in some version of the manuscript — and thank goodness I’d saved all those files! But I never would’ve seen these problems without distance.
I’ve heard for years the importance of fresh eyes. And I did try to give myself a break from my stories. A day, sometimes. At most, a week. But I was always in such a hurry, and more time always seemed like a luxury.
Now, I know better.
The time won’t be any easier to find, but at least I know where to aim.
Please share. Have you ever read something you’d written and surprised yourself? How do you find the time to gain the proper perspective on your stories?