The Role of Time In Success

day of the week clockQuality takes time. I wrote the first draft of my current novel-in-progress over a four month period beginning in January 2013. I am now on a third rewrite and the whole project has been completely revolutionized thanks, in part, to taking my time. The thing that happened over time is that the story really took root in my mind. The response of beta readers gave me a lot to think about, and after sitting on it and letting things evolve, both consciously and subconsciously, a whole new narrative developed – a right and exciting narrative that I’m even more enthused about today.

Will you like the final version? I have no idea. What I do know is that being in a hurry to produce something for the sake of getting it out into the world is a mistake. Haste makes waste, and judging by the slew of underwritten works out there these days we’re swimming in it. Waste, that is.

Of course, bad writing is bad writing, and it’s no sure thing that T x W = Q if the writing is bad all along. What time offers is a chance to let things grow into their proper state. For example, the protagonist of my novel comes across in the earlier drafts as stoic, frightened, lost and, frankly, boring. Really she’s underdeveloped. All of the characters are underdeveloped in the early version because, as with real people, it takes time to get to know someone. Not only that, but it takes time to find the right POV, the right storyline, and the right protagonist. The new version of my protagonist is sarcastic, a little edgy, and more fluid. I hope she’s also more interesting. The point here is that an idea doesn’t come fully loaded with all of the answers. There is much to discover along the way. This is part of the joy of writing. Writing, like life, is a journey. And like life it’s the journey that is the point much more than the destination.

Be mindful when letting time work on you. While there is merit in setting your work aside and ‘forgetting’ about it for a while, the real value in giving things time is in thinking and thinking about where the story is and where it needs to go. Returning to my work-in-progress, I knew that I didn’t have the story I wanted. I had an ok story, and I was very tempted, even encouraged to let it fly. What I did instead was give up. I worked on some other things, finished them, and even began a new novel in line with the first. For a little while I didn’t plan to go back to that book. But through encouragement and a little brow-beating I did return. I admit as well that in my absence from the book I thought about it. And as I began to inch closer to returning I started to reimagine how the story should be told. I applied myself to understanding the story I had versus the story I wanted, and began to see how I could tell the version that was in my gut rather than the underdeveloped one that first came out. The time factor yielded this new thing, much closer to my original intent for the story. Weeks of sleep and fatigue, despair and elation, boredom, distraction, and myriad other things resulted in a new paradigm for the old novel.

It will take more time to see what the final outcome is, but I’m ready now to carry on and finish a book the right way. There’s no time frame for when it will be ready. It could be six months or another year. What I’m happy to report at this juncture is that we’re underway again, and with a much better product thanks in large part to taking the time it needed for the real story to reveal itself.


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2 comments on “The Role of Time In Success

  1. Once again, I find that we’re on the same page, so to speak.

    I’m a huge proponent of letting a MS rest for a while (at least a month) after finishing the first draft. If I were to edit something before then, I’d just be moving words around.

    I also hear what you’re saying with regard to a seemingly prevailing (or, at least, momentum-gaining) perspective that editing — beyond proofing for typos — is wasted time. A few months ago on Twitter, I posted my 2015 goal of finishing the edits to my latest novel, and someone was quick to reply: “I hope you complete your novel. Remember. Too many edits kills your voice. Publish and move on.”

    “Too many edits kills your voice?” Really? That may be true if you are letting your beta readers’ opinions overpower your vision, but isn’t it telling that this gentleman assumed any extra work I put into the MS was doing more harm than good?

    Is there a point when a writer has to cut the cord and send his/her work out into the world? Absolutely. But, to be honest, I’d rather “waste” a few months for marginal gain than submit a story that isn’t as strong as it should be.

    I fear that the self-publishing arena is partially to blame. We’re told again and again that the more books we have “out there,” the better our chances of getting our first reader to buy the next one and then another and then… And in order to have a large number of books, you need to produce them…quickly…

    The age-old quantity vs. quality dilemma.

    It’s a matter of choice, I suppose, but I’d rather have one or two excellent books than twenty mediocre ones.

    • Right there with you, brother. I think the vanity in “vanity press” is alive and well given the great number of mediocre books out there. It’s not that the ideas are bad, either, but the writing is unfinished. Unfinished writing that is put into a book and sent out into the world is writing done for the sake of attention to the writer and not out of respect for the craft and tradition of good storytelling. It leaves me to wonder whether contemporary audiences will recognize quality anymore. Is it any wonder the younger generation just waits for the movie?

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