“The purse! The damn PURSE!!!”

We’ve all heard it before. Endless amounts of YouTube videos, articles, and books on writing have preached the sanctity of putting away that first draft and come back to it when you’ve grown up. And you know something? They’re right. But how many of us follow this credo? I’ll be the first to cross that line drawn in the sand and say with complete shame that I have no patience. Without giving anything away, I recently finished a story that opens with a woman in a lifeboat, digging through a purse. I never said whose purse it was. I then did the old flashbackaroo and, after a series of harrowing events, lead back to where the story began.

I went through that story backwards, forwards, and even did the Charleston on top of it. Happy with what I had, I sent that baby to the publisher whose deadline was Halloween. I have taken a break from writing between Saturday night and today. I figured I deserved a little “down time” for such a good job and decided to use the time to read “Self-Editing For Fiction Writers”. In the middle of a paragraph, it hits me. The purse! The damn PURSE!!! I never explained how the purse got into the lifeboat with her. I tried to think back and convince myself that I hadn’t made the main character do anything that would rule out the possibility that she did it all with a purse around her shoulder. Nope. Try again. Maybe the other female character had hers with her. It wasn’t like I said whose purse it was. Right? We’ll see.

The point I’m trying to make to both myself and you is that you NEED to set aside your recent work and come back to it with fresh eyes. Odds are you missed something whether it’s an info dump, a clear case of telling, or a damned Coach bag. One thing I’m going to try, and suggest the same to you, is to start work on a new story as soon as you are done with your latest. The new story will give you time to let the old one simmer and also get your mind away from it. Even better, it motivates you to keep writing. Because, are we really writers if we don’t write?

— Sean Grigsby