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How to Hibernate, or, Letting Your First Draft Rest

How to Hibernate, or, Letting Your First Draft Rest

*If you live in the Seattle area, come see me read at The Grotto Theater tonight from 7 to 9pm for the Seattle Scribes Reading Event!*


I think I’m turning into a bear. My body is preparing for hibernation.

This past weekend we turned the clocks back an hour for Daylight Savings. Normally I refer to “fall back” as “the good one,” because it gives me an extra hour of sleep in the mornings. But this year, living so far north in Seattle, turning the clocks back had a scary consequence: the sun is now setting at 4:45 in the afternoon, and it’s only going to get worse.

Now I can’t go for a run after work, because by the time I leave at 5pm, the streets are already dark, and I’m not about to wear one of those reflective safety vests. Not that I feel like running. Now, in the evenings, I only feel like doing two things: eating and sleeping.

The other night, my boyfriend and I ate dinner at 6pm. That’s early for us, but we were hungry, and it felt like dinner time. Soon afterward we both sat on the couch yawning. “Is it bed time?” I asked. I was shocked to learn it was only 8pm.

The lack of sun is definitely sending a sleep message to my body. After 5pm, my eyes start getting heavy and my body feels sluggish. But my brain doesn’t want to hibernate. “Let’s read more!” it says. “Let’s do some work! Let’s not waste the evening!” But it’s hard to concentrate your mind when your body is in bear mode.

Sleep bear. Photo credit.

So I finished the first draft of my novel (tentatively called Bodies) about a week ago, and I’m letting it rest. Pretty much everyone says that when you’ve finished the first draft of a book you need to leave it alone and get some distance before beginning the revision process. I’ve heard everything from a few weeks to a few months of “rest” time.

But this is really hard for me! I want nothing more than to print out the draft right now and start attacking it with a red pen. I want nothing more than to frantically send out query letters to agents so I can get this show on the road and have a freaking novel published already.

But this has been my problem with previous novels. I’ve been too rushed. I’ve sent out manuscripts that weren’t ready. I didn’t revise properly because I didn’t have enough distance to be able to see where the novel wasn’t working.

So I really should let Bodies rest, even though resting feels lazy, and I hate feeling lazy. I have to remember that hibernation is part of the process.

*  *  *

I guess this is a perfect time for me to be taking a rest from my novel.  These dark days are encouraging my body to take a rest, too. I have this mindset that I always need to go-go-go, but slowing down is a good thing sometimes. Taking a break from writing will help me recharge so I’ll have energy and enthusiasm to do a through revision of Bodies and to eventually start a new project. Without any downtime, a person tends to burn out, and I wouldn’t want that. Writing is what I want to do for the rest of my life; I don’t have to accomplish everything right now.

So I won’t feel too bad if my body wants to go sleep at 8pm. And I won’t feel too bad about letting my Bodies hibernate either. A bear asleep in his cave isn’t being lazy; he’s being practical. Hibernating helps keep him alive in the long, cold winter. And this year, it’s going to be a dark one.

I will take a hint from my mom's cat -- resting is the way to go.

I will take a hint from my mom’s cat — resting is the way to go.


About evalangston

Eva Langston is a writer, among other things.

One response »

  1. Reblogged this on BurlesquePress and commented:
    We second Eva’s thoughts here!


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