I've read that after finishing the first draft, you should distance yourself from the project at least a month.

I just finished the first draft of my novel (10 chapters). I've been trying to not to think about the project. But editing ideas pop up in my mind now and then.

I really want to start editing the project (I finished the first draft three days ago).

Is it a bad idea to break the 'cooling down' rule?

2 Answers 2


Well, maybe you haven't finished the first draft yet.

What kind of editing ideas are popping up? The "cooling phase" is used to get a fresh look on your manuscript, so you are able to find wholes in the story, more spelling mistakes you would have missed otherwise, passages that do not read fluently and so on.

But if your ideas are about changing the story, adding a scene or two, asking "should she really kiss him in chapter five", then it could be that you put "The End" on a not yet finished story.

(Besides that, keep in mind, that this cooling phase works for a lot of writers, but that does not mean it is the right tool for you.)

Nevertheless, you need to get your head free of this stuff. As a writer to get your head free you have to write it down. You do not need to change anything on your first draft, just take a piece of paper or a text file and note down what you want to do. The thing is, that you also have a lot of garbage in your head, and you have to note that down too, to get it out. Otherwise there is no room for the good stuff.

So, I advise you to just note down your ideas and wait a little bit longer. In two days if you look on your notes and say "I have to implement that to the story" then do it. If it is "Why have I ever thought this is important?" then don't.


I forgot to mention, that starting a new project is also a good idea. Then you have something different to think about and can the other draft rest. Not to mention, if you really want to be a writer, you should write. Which means, start a new project.

(Oh, and congrats for finishing your novel.)

  • Thanks for the advice. But I thought adding and removing scenes were part of the editing process?
    – wyc
    Commented Aug 23, 2012 at 9:23
  • 3
    Yes and no, @alexchenco. It depends in which phase you are. As I said, maybe you haven't finished the first draft, even you think so. Just imagine you write five chapters, put "The End" under them. Three month later you add ten more. Is that first draft with a three month pause or is this editing, because you thought you finished it three month ago? I say it depends on your perspective. Commented Aug 23, 2012 at 9:45
  • Well, the novel already has 10 chapters and I'm pretty sure it is done.
    – wyc
    Commented Aug 23, 2012 at 10:09
  • John, I have edited out the profanity in this post. You undid my edit, which I have fixed. I know you disagree with the profanity policy here; please do not do this again. This is not a case where the word is needed to communicate your point. Commented Aug 23, 2012 at 21:01
  • Oh, you are right @NeilFein, I did, but not on purpose. It was an editing clash. Look at the timestamps. You edited out so called profanity and I edited in my "Edit" section. Normally I should have been informed but well, that doesn't work reliably. Commented Aug 24, 2012 at 8:10

Distancing yourself from a manuscript for a period of time is, in my experience, a good idea when you've run out of inspiration or have finished a draft. Reading through a draft version after a few weeks indeed has the advantages listed by John Smithers.

However, when you're inspired, by all means write! Don't look at the 'cooling down period' as a rule, but rather as a tool that you can sometimes use to great effect, but that at others times has no use. You can't screw a nail into a plank, as my granddad used to say...

  • Exactly. Sometimes a cooling down period of two days will be enough. You will need a longer cooling period if you have been working on the book for weeks/months, and are getting a bit sick of it. In this case, a long cooling period will bring fresh perspective. Commented Aug 28, 2012 at 8:15

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