Monday, September 9th, 2013

Stepping Away from the Vehicle

Well, here we are at a funny in-between moment.

I finished a complete draft of The Magician’s Land.  Then I revised it till my eyes bled and I lost all understanding of what it was I was trying to write about in the first place. At that point it seemed like time to turn the draft in to my editor. It was also  a good moment because it was a week after my contract said it was due.

I don't know if anyone can tell that this is a ship being launched. It's a metaphor

But you don’t want to hit these deadlines right on the nose. Creates the wrong impression. I’m not a trained monkey here. I am an artist monkey!

Now all I have to do is go as long as I can without looking at the manuscript. This is the stage of novel-writing that Zadie Smith calls “step away from the vehicle”:

When you finish your novel, if money is not a desperate priority, if you do not need to sell it at once or be published that very second — put it in a drawer. For as long as you can manage. A year or more is ideal — but even three months will do. Step away from the vehicle. The secret to editing your work is simple: you need to become its reader instead of its writer.

So here I go. I will fill up the upcoming weeks, months maybe, with going to work and seeing my family and working on other projects, all the while vigorously trying to forget whatever it was I spent the last two years writing. When next I see The Magician’s Land, we shall meet as strangers.

19 comments on “Stepping Away from the Vehicle

  1. Jaimie says:

    It’s so nice when writers actually care about these things. And waiting a year between drafts! How painful that would be, but how valuable.

  2. Church says:

    And keep your hands where we can see ’em!

  3. Jennifer says:

    I hope reader you really likes it.

  4. Heather Head says:

    I’m so glad your eyes almost fell out. Because when you finished your first draft and said it was practically complete and just needed a little tweaking (or whatever obnoxious thing you said), well, let’s just say it was almost over between us that day.

    My first draft needed more than a few tweaks. In fact, saying that I “revised” it on the second round would be a little like saying that our founding fathers “revised” the government when they wrote the Constitution of the U.S.

    In fact, rewriting the manuscript was a lot like the Revolutionary War in other ways too, except with more suffering and less legendary heroism.

    Finding out that even you lose your way during revisions, or at least feel like you’ve lost your way, well, it gives the rest of us hope.

    Glad you’re done. Take a break.

    P.S. The Revolutionary War is almost over. All that’s left is the denouement, and I’ll have a completed second draft. Cheers. :)

  5. […] somewhere in there I’m supposed to “step away from the vehicle,” apparently, for … a year? Three […]

  6. Leo says:

    Lookin forward to it!!

  7. Nagol99 says:

    I’m re-reading the series now (with the expectation that Mr. Grossman would have the latest book out by the end of the year). I can definately wait for a finished materpiece…Keep it up Mr. Grossman, the series is really good!

    also….i hope there is a better defintion of what a “niffin” really is and what happens to it after it does its business….

    eagerly waiting!!!!

  8. Kyle Lee says:

    Looking forward to the third book, Mr. Grossman! I loved the first two. Hopefully it comes out soon.

  9. Caroline says:

    I am so excited for this third book I can barely speak! Thank you for your novels, Lev. They have taken my breath away.

  10. Fimb89 says:

    A long time ago I found a fortune cookie slip, somewhere out in the world, sans cookie, and it said:

    “No entertainment is so cheap as reading, nor any pleasure so lasting.”

    I can safely say your books are the epitome of this, and that I eagerly look forward to this next installment. I literally just finished reading both existing books, less than an hour ago. I seldom find anything that speaks to so many aspects of my brain, much less makes me feel and care in such profound ways.

    I started on Monday, 9/9/13, and have not stopped for anything less important than going to work [during which I binge read during every available break in ebook format (Oh technology <3)]. They have immediately become two of my absolutely unequivocal favorites, and I thank you dearly for them. Needless to say, finding this post, I am floored.

  11. matticus doyle says:

    Way to go man! When your in the backseat and the wind is blowing too hard in your ear for you to hear that conversation thats so important to those in the front seats… then they turn and the one thing you hear besides the rear end of laughter is “right?!”… its similar.. just wait foe them to pull over at that utopian scene and bust out the trail mix watching the sunset to state “i never did get what that conversation was about..”.. anyway, ive blogged on here once or twice… i one thought up a book that hadnt yet been written… years later i picked that book up and remembered it… that book was and is “the magician”.. yea, lots of people wont believe me but you know.. like a lot of readers of this trilogy, its very deeply rooted and peraonal. Thank you Lev for making my dreams touch paper. Im glad you think in some ways like me. If i may suggest… put it in the drawr, and only open the drawer when you cant remember what of this or any other planet you could have put in there. Take care all. -Matticus- (matt)

  12. K. M. Walton says:

    I can relate, Lev. After an hour and forty five minute phone conversation with my editor last night I am about to dive into round two of revisions. I look forward to stepping away from the vehicle.

  13. A Tim says:

    Hey, congrats. Good luck with the edits. I guess it will take the time it will take. Looking forward to seeing the finished product.

  14. Alec says:

    That passage you quoted from Zadie Smith is echoed by Stephen King in “On Writing.” What’s it feel like coming back to the book later to read it “as a stranger?” Does it still read with the same voice in your head it did when you were writing it?

  15. Eric C says:

    This is one of my favorite books. Its nice to hear you are taking your time, but the other half of me wants to wage a small war to get that manuscript. Regardless, congrats and I will be waiting.

  16. Timothy says:

    Congrats on turning in the draft!

    I just convinced my book club to read (or re-read, for some of us) The Magicians this month. It was a fantastic discussion – there’s so much to mull over. I’m absolutely chomping at the proverbial bit to see how things end.

    Best of luck for the coming months.

  17. eulalios says:

    So I do wonder … given how the last two ran (and I did truly enjoy them both) … have you gone for a trifecta of feminine apotheoses? And what’s that about really, as a recurring plot device / climax?

  18. Leverus says:


    As to why, you’d have to ask my therapist. I have no idea.

  19. David W says:

    I want it now!… but I also want it to be the best novel you are capable of giving us. Take as much time as you need. I can wait.

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