On a baking show I was watching recently, the contestants had to make a certain kind of bread. For the bread to turn out, they had to “prove” their dough, a professional baking term for letting the dough rise before baking.
And, being the writer I am, it reminded me of writing. As writers, we also need to “prove” our manuscripts. Once we finish assembling our ingredients of plot, character, theme, and setting into the dough of our first draft, we need to give our manuscript time to sit. If you try to edit right away, either you will be so in love with your words how they are that you won’t edit enough or you will be so wiped by the first draft that you’ll hate your words and be tempted to throw them all away.
Instead, be willing to give it time.
It is amazing the change of perspective that comes about by not touching a manuscript for a few weeks or a few months. Sometimes, I have a manuscript that I absolutely adore. When I take it out again, I start to see all the places that it isn’t actually as great as I thought it was. Sometimes, I have a manuscript that I toss into a drawer in frustration because it fought me every step of the way while drafting. When I take it out again, I see the places where it isn’t actually as bad as I thought. There might even be something worth saving in it.
Like proving bread, proving your manuscript takes patience. It is very tempting to take it out too early and start fiddling with it even though you know it needs to sit longer.
What about you? How much time do you give yourself between writing a first draft and editing it?