Editing a novel can be a big headache, but I have found a few ways of tricking myself to enjoy the process. Before the novel I’m working on now, I didn’t like to edit at all. It annoyed me how long it took, how detail oriented it is, and I felt like I would rather “create”.
Mind-Set as an Artist
Everyone is different, but one of my favorite parts of writing is creating—in other words, the first draft where I don’t think too much, I just write it. That’s why I struggled with editing because I liked to create, not pick over items that are already written.
But that’s how I figured out how to trick myself into liking editing. I told myself, “You’re an artist, molding your work like a piece of clay. Form this story to make it the best reader experience you can.”
In other words, editing is creating! Now as I scan paragraphs, I imagine the piece is like a mug or a vase. I shave a bit off here, add a piece there, and make the book a thing of beauty so my reader remains engaged.
That idea made editing feel less like drudge work and more entertaining. Now I enjoy choosing better verbs or fixing a scene because I create art. Written art.
How to Deal with Overwhelm
One of my problems is that I find editing an overwhelming process. It’s often hard to figure out where to start. Typical to me though, I find a solution.
After I write the first draft, I create a list of mistakes, holes, etc., in the plot, characters, or other areas. The key is to keep a document open or a notebook handy as I edit so that I don’t slack off. Each time I open the document I’m editing, I also open my list and take notes in the moment.
That’s important: In the moment.
After I’ve made my list I tackle the issues. As I work I focus on only one aspect of the novel. I choose a character and an aspect of the story. For example, I go through scenes where character “x” is involved with the antagonist. Or I choose a word that appears too often and change that word throughout the whole manuscript.
Sometimes I get lost in the enormity of the task or distracted by various problems I found. To counteract that, I ensure issues are on my handy list, and then I tell myself, “I’m working on x, y, or z right now, so please take a number.”
Often, I must repeat this checking of the list and taking a number routine while editing. But even for someone like me, this solution works.
Work On the Novel Everyday
When I was in college, I took a few writing classes. (I didn’t major in writing.) One of the things my professors repeated to me is, “A writer writes every day.” I used to hate that. I felt guilty as if I wasn’t a real writer because I had never done that before. I figured it disqualified me from being a True Writer.
While writing a previous novel, I did not work on it daily. In fact, sometimes there were days or weeks between writing sessions. When I returned to the computer, I would forget where I was, what the characters were doing, and even the general direction of the plot. That’s a lot to lose track of.
Since then, I discovered that in order to remember what’s occurring in the story, keep my “creative juices” flowing, and stay organized I really do have to write almost every day. And I do.
I am not paid to write. (Yet!) I say no to a lot of activities in order to do it. I stay up late and get up early. But this is my dream here, so I do have high motivation. The point is, in the end it is so worth it to write every day, even if it’s only for a short period of time.
On another note, sometimes I totally don’t feel like editing or writing. I tell myself, “People don’t want to go flip burgers” or some other tough job, but they do it out of necessity. This reminds me I am fortunate to be able to spend time writing and editing.
My dreams are a necessity.
It helps me during every stage, including editing, to engage with my work-in-progress on a daily basis.
Take Joy and Pride in Being an AUTHORity
Yes! I finally get to be the dictator I’ve always wanted to be. That means only eating Oreo cookies for seven days, staying up all night, and riding my bike on the wrong side of the street.
Just kidding. No dictators. Please don’t try this at home. Only dictating what I put on the page.
There are a lot of areas of this great big world that we have no control over. A lot of times it’s disappointing because there are so many things we wish we could change, and if we think too long, it hurts.
As a self-published author, one of my favorite aspects is how I have control over my process and end product. I can pour my energy into my labor of love and revel in the fact that I get to be an authority in my own books.
And editing is the where the heart of that action happens. I choose which words to include, how to fix scenes, and other goodies.
So revel in the fun of it!
Write Something You Really Love
One of the issues with the other book I wrote was that I didn’t love it. I liked it, but wasn’t head over heels in love with the project. With the paranormal romance, vampire series I’m writing right now, I can’t wait to get back it. I dislike doing other things (but I have to) because it takes me away from these novels.
I have seen a big difference in wanting to engage with the manuscript because I like it so much. Before I used to drag my feet in the mental mud to get my butt-in-chair, but now I’m ticking off the minutes and telling people I’m busy so I can return to writing.
Anyway you edit, work it, and work it until you love it even more.
This article is mainly about the mentality I find helpful as I sift through my work. In another blog post I will make a more specific, practical list. Stay tuned, my friends. Or is it, Stay Thirsty? I think in this case, it’s, Stay Tuned, My Friends.
Good luck on your novels. I hope they turn out awesome!