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