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Book Authors Learn to Play the Waiting Game

Book Authors Learn to Play the Waiting Game

In my 37 years as a freelance writer I’ve learned to play the waiting game. This is a difficult game with built-in challenges. Although I’ve learned to wait for many things, I have to work on a different kind of waiting–stepping away from a project. Each writing project excites me and I’m eager to move forward.

For the best possible outcome, however, I have to learn to step back, let my writing gel, and read it later. You may have already learned the value of waiting or are learning how to wait. Impatient as we may be, waiting several weeks or months has distinct advantages.

The structure of your writing is clearer. Weeks later, when I read my manuscript again, I realized some chapters were in the wrong order. If this was obvious to me now, why wasn’t it obvious before? I think I was too close to the manuscript. Stepping back enabled me to see the book as readers would see it when they read the contents.

New word choices come to mind. As I read through the manuscript, I thought of some better words to use. There weren’t many replacement words, but they helped me make the points I wanted to make and, hopefully, generate feelings I want the reader to feel. Nonfiction writing can be tricky. I want to make key points and want readers to remember them. I’ve learned that readers remember stories better than they remember statistics.

Style becomes more apparent. Much to my surprise, I realized some parts of the manuscript read like a first draft, and this was embarrassing. Obviously, I had submitted the manuscript too soon. I knew why this had happened. Two books had been percolating in my mind at once and came to my consciousness simultaneously. I was eager to finish the first book and get on to the second. Of course, the only solution was to revise the manuscript.

You’re a better judge of your work. Novelist Eudora Welby made a wise observation when she said, “I think as you learn more about writing you learn to be direct.” Waiting a month and reading my manuscript again helped me judge writing flow, sequence, and clarity. Nonfiction writers like me have to sequence the book in a way that makes sense to readers and allows them to follow the logic trail. This takes time.

Waiting helps us plan. Realizing that I would have to revise a manuscript helped me plan my work schedule for the second book, which I had already started. So I put the second manuscript away and returned to the first. It took me a day to get back “into” the manuscript and I worked on it for a week. I try to follow Theodore Geisel’s (Dr. Seuss) example. Whether the time was productive or not, he sat at his desk for eight hours a day.

Of course, the waiting game isn’t a game at all, and is a skill all writers like you and me need to develop. Like yeast working in dough, waiting helps a book rise to the level we set in our minds. Quality work is worth waiting for and we can do it!