7 Reminders About Editing

They say writing is re-writing, and until you’ve sat down to write a book and discovered this, you don’t realize how true it is.

Tangled up in all that writing and re-writing is editing: that lovely process where you read your MS so many times, the thing you love becomes something you hate.

Editing can feel never-ending and often leaves you questioning if you’re improving your words or making them worse. It’s an important part of the writing process, though. One that will test you, but also help you make your book the story you want it to be. If you’re stuck in editing hell, first, say “Hi”, I’ve been here since June, and then familiarise yourself with these reminders…

It’s Just Words

They’re important and they’re needed and you may think they’re getting the better of you, but it’s just words. You can master them, arrange them into pretty paragraphs, and shape your characters. I believe in you.

Go Sentence By Sentence

Whether it’s 40,000 or 140,000 words, that’s still a lot of words to edit. You’ve got to read every single one, multiple times, checking for flow, grammar, meaning and more. Just the idea might put you into procrastination mode (also a place I’ve visited many times this year). Like any huge task, the trick is to break it down. Edit sentence by sentence, only worrying about the one you’re working on. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you’ll get through them.

It Does End (One Day, Maybe? Hopefully)

As I said, I’ve been in editing hell mode since June on my current WIP. This is not the first time I’ve edited this MS, but I’m hoping it’ll be the last before I send the MS out on submission again. Yes, again. I thought it was ready two years ago, but after receiving another rejection at the start of this year (after a 15-month wait!), I went back to the editing board. Now I’ve got a draft that has been edited more than anything else I’ve written, and one I’m happy with. All the re-writing and new editing I’ve done is ending (for now), so I can vouch that, at some point, the editing does end.

You Get Chocolate At The End

While the sense of accomplishment when you finish a big edit is a reward, I need more. Good chocolate, a nice meal out, popcorn and a movie. Or you can reward yourself with something non-food related (I’ve heard rumors that’s a thing), such as new stationery or a book you’ve been waiting to read (one that isn’t your own and hasn’t been edited to death by you). Set yourself a reward for all your hard work and enjoy it!

You’re Becoming A Better Writer

It might not be apparent at first, and there’ll be days, weeks, and months when you’re convinced all of this editing is wasting time. But it is helping. Every unnecessary word you cut. Every “tell” sentence you spot and flag to be re-written to “show”. Every paragraph you take from a rambling mess to something coherent is making you a better writer. Each editing pass might be a struggle, but it is changing your words and you. Trust the editing process. It will shape you and help you grow as a writer.

You Can Get Up From Your Desk

It might be tempting to power through your edits, not looking up from your screen for hours at a time. Being motivated by inspiration or the need to finish so you can move to the next stage is fine. But taking a break from editing is just as important as getting the work done. Get up from your desk and move. Go for a walk, stretch, and benefit mentally and physically from taking regular breaks.

It Will Be Worth It In The End

You started editing for a reason. You might not remember why, but you did, and it will be worth it. Repeat that mantra as you ready yourself to make yet another pass. Burn the saying into your brain when you finally see you’ve used “that” so many times it’s become its own character. It‘ll keep you going all the way through your final editing session, where you’ll confirm, for sure, that it was worth it in the end.

If you’re currently visiting editing hell, leave a comment about the reminders you use to keep yourself on track and inspired.

— K.M. Allan

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41 thoughts on “7 Reminders About Editing

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  1. Great post! The best feeling when editing is when you find you’re editing back to how a sentence read the first (or seventh) time and deciding, yes, I had it right! So important to keep in mind that it does end eventually–or none of our writing would ever see the light of day!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I hate editing, so the only reminder I use is “This needs to be done.” It’s the same reminder I use when going for blood tests – have a weird freaky terror of needles and make THE most absurd fool of myself whenever one comes for me – so I push through it, as I do with cleaning housel, washing dishes, vacuuming, all chores I loathe. But they have to be done. As for it being worth in the end, I seriously have my doubts aahahahahhh

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have a really strange relationship with editing. I am always so afraid to start (more like, afraid to open the feedback file) but when I do, I don’t want to stop. My last pass was focused on cleaning up repetition, dialogue tags, sentence structure, and adverbs – and together it knocked out some 10k words in a 200k-ish file, really!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes, at the editing-the-draft(s)-stage I leave out a bag of m and m’s. One for each edit. A bag can go pretty fast! 🙂 I’m always amazed at how much I find and change, even at drafts #22. Reading my work out loud is a great way to find repeats/wrong words/misspellings/awkward structure. But in the end, I don’t want to take away the core of what inspired me to write my story/book in the first place.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for the post. I’m currently in editing mode and it seems as if it’s going on FOREVER. Will it ever end? Will my wonderful story ever be out there for all to read?
    Of course it will. I just need patience and hard work.
    Thanks for the reminder to get up and leave the screen occasionally, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I brought in two people to edit my book. I knew I was way to attached to the story to do it on my own.

    The hardest part was giving them control. Once I got over that good things begin to happen. The biggest thing I learned from all of this is that the writer is the last to know if a scene works or not. We are so wrapped up in the story it’s hard to take a step back and see the big picture. That’s why we need another set of eyes.

    As always, great advice. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Totally agree with you, Bryan. When you’ve spend so much time writing, editing, and reading your story, there comes a point when you need someone else to help you see what you no longer can.

      Like

    1. It was the longest I’d ever waited for a rejection. I’d given up hearing from them and probably would have preferred not to in the end 😅. Totally agree with you that editing is the hardest part of the writing process. I didn’t realise how long it takes either.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Wait, why would anyone ever reward themselves with something other than food?

    I’m about to enter editing mode once NaNo is over, and I’m oddly excited, so I think I’m documenting that feeling here because I know I’ll forget it soon. But editing is easily the best way to become a better writer. Not only does your story become better, but you learn so much about the craft. Thanks for sharing these tips! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve not published fiction yet, but I’m working toward it. Editing (rewriting and revising) is my go-to solution for times I’m not sure where the story goes from where the cursor is flashing. Editing gets me back, better immersed in the story, gives me a stronger sense of the flow. It is rare that I spend time editing without coming back to the blank page with some ideas of how to proceed.
    Editing is also the best way to get feedback quickly. When I re-read I always find things I didn’t notice when I was too busy writing words (trees) to think about the story (forest).

    Liked by 1 person

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