Every writer has their own process, and the Six-Week Marinate is part of mine.
Before I had ever written a novel, I read Stephen King's On Writing where The Mighty King advised aspiring authors to let a book sit for six weeks in between the first and second drafts. He stressed the importance of getting distance from your story and returning to it with fresh eyes six weeks later, so that you could see all the things wrong with it. It sounded like great advice.
But when I finished the first draft of Creep back in January 2009, I was reluctant to let it marinate for six weeks. I had written what I felt was a really clean first draft. I had great characters, lots of tension, a strong arc, and a compelling ending. I was antsy to get started on the rewrites, because surely there wouldn't be much to fix. But King's advice stuck in my brain, and so, wanting to do things right, I put the novel away and tried not to think about it for exactly six weeks.
By the time those forty-two days passed, I was totally dreading opening up my Word files. I had sweaty palms and heart palpitations. A lot of time had passed, allowing all kinds of doubt to seep in. I no longer felt the draft would be clean. I was pretty sure my characters were one-dimensional. I was certain my ending was flat. And you know what? A quick read through – on hard copy, because I printed the whole damn thing out, all 550 pages of it – confirmed that my fears were TRUE.
My first draft was shit.
Right from the first page, I could see all the places where it was overwritten. I had way too much backstory (which maybe I needed to know, but my readers certainly didn't). I had a ton of repetitive phrases and cheesy clichés, and I had tried so hard to make my protagonist interesting that she came out completely unlikeable. The entire thing needed work, on both macro and micro levels. I pulled out my purple pen and started slashing.
I shudder to think what would have happened had I not let the manuscript sit for six weeks. Would I have revised it once and then queried it? Probably. Yikes!
What about you? Do you let your work marinate in between drafts, or do you jump right into revisions? What works for you?