As you all probably know (since I keep blabbering about it), I’ve been deep into edits for my WIP, Burning Thorns, ever since January, and only just finished a few weeks ago.
Editing was a hard and long road. But at the same time? It was kind of amazing. (Shocking, right???) And along the way, I learned a lot. Like a lot a lot! Eventually I’d love to give you guys a look at my editing process and some tips and tricks I used (if you’re interested in that sort of thing, that is?), but today I’m just going to talk about the journey and five big things I gleaned from the process.
If you’re anything like me. The idea of editing is DAUNTING. Like, lol nah I’d rather go face a fire-breathing dragon than try to untangle my monster of a novel into something tangible. I felt that way for YEARS. (Okay, I’d like to see a dragon over anything else, but that’s not the point.) I’d write one first draft after another and say I’ll edit all those beasts “one day”, as I frolic away with my lies to chase another new, shiny idea.
But guess what? One does not get published with typo-ridden, plot hole filled, disasters of a first draft.
One day I realized if I really wanted this, if I was going to respect my dream and actually do something about it, I was going to have to conquer this fear of rewriting and sit myself down and do it.
And here I am, a few years later, with the second big revision of Burning Thorns under my belt, and a whole new perspective of editing.
Turns out? Editing is not the big bad wolf whom we must cower and hide from and burn with fire. Editing is a friend (not food). A strict, sometimes overbearing friend who does often seem like an untamable dragon you can never, ever conquer. BUT I HAVE GOOD NEWS. This dragon is conquerable, and is actually there to help. You just have to know how to approach it and make it your friend, not your monster. But how??? Well, hopefully these tips will help you like they did me.
Five Ways to Conquer the
STEP AWAY BETWEEN DRAFTS
When I edited Burning Thorns the first time around, I sent it chapter-by-chapter to beta-readers as I edited and got some fantastic feedback. I knew what parts of the story worked, but also what parts were big problems. Great! But then I realized…I didn’t know how to actually fix the problem areas. A couple of things in particular were giving me a HUGE headache and I simply could not work it out.
So I stepped away…for a year.
I didn’t actually mean to put off the next round of edits that long. But life got complicated, I had some emotional stuff going on, and I just wasn’t feeling it. Plus, I still had no earthly clue how to fix those finicky story problems.
Finally, finally this January I was determined to get back into the game and do these revisions, no matter what! And when I sat down to work out how to rewrite it, the floodgates opened! The ideas came. All of them. Every problem I had been agonizing over for a year that seemed so huge and overwhelming before, was suddenly small and easily fixable. And I realized subconsciously I had been working out the problems. All it took was a break.
I’m by no means saying step away from each draft of your book for a year. (Though life does happen. Take it from me, you shouldn’t beat yourself up when life gets in the way of writing. It’s okay!) But you will be shocked what spending a few weeks or even months away from your story will do. Not only will you be able to see it with fresh eyes, but you will most likely find those big, seemingly unfixable problems aren’t unfixable at all.
Seriously, time away does miracles.
EDITING IS NOT HURTING YOUR BABY, BUT MAKING IT EVEN BETTER
I’ve seen this concern before, the fear that editing will only destroy your beloved novel you spent months on end writing. I get it. It’s hard to think about rewriting and changing the very thing you fell in love with. What if you make it worse? Does it even need changing? (This is where beta-readers and time away helps so, so much. Not only do you need to distance yourself from your beloved baby, but you also need eyes that are not your own to find the gems and faults.)
Let me assure you, editing is not ruining anything. In fact, it’s loving on your baby. It’s giving it the time and care it needs to shine, instead of tossing the messy thing in a drawer to become dusty and forgotten. It’s growing it and shaping it into something magnificent so its ready to face the world and make a difference. Just like a parent would raise a child to be ready for adulthood. Don’t abandon your poor child! Don’t be scared that you’re going to botch it up. Get that dust rag (a.k.a the red pen) and polish that thing up until it glistens.
I learned this more than ever during this latest revision. I was quite pleased with the last draft, loved it even. But now with this second revision, I clearly see now the flaws that had been there. The story is (hopefully) even better now. And it’s thrilling. There’s such a thrilling satisfaction seeing your beloved story shape into something truly beautiful. Clearing away those typos, strengthening those character arcs, adding the depth, smoothing out the prose, filling in the plot holes.
I promise you. Editing will take nothing away from your beloved baby. It will only make it shine and cause you to love it all the more.
GOALS ARE LIFE, BUT MAKE THEM MANAGEABLE
Goals, guys! Goals! They are beautiful, beautiful things. If I hadn’t had set goals and a deadline for myself, I’d probably still be on chapter 3. Never underestimate the glorious power of goals.
When it comes to editing, slow and steady is key. When I’m first drafting, I often make absurd goals (like 7k words a day during NaNoWriMo eheheheh) because it doesn’t matter. The point is to get the first draft finished. But with editing, it’s completely different.
The point is to finish well.
Editing can be a slow, tedious task. You’re combing through every chapter, every paragraph, every word, trying to make it the best it can be. This is not the time to cut corners or overwhelm yourself to the point that you’re just doing the minimum work and calling it good. Which means rewriting fifteen chapters a day maaay not be the best plan.
For myself, I set a goal of doing 3 chapters a week. That way, I was steadily making progress, but I wasn’t so overworked that I was coming to the manuscript with only half my energy. And it did wonders. This was one of the biggest lessons for me. It was good to keep up progress throughout every week and staying immersed in my story. But it was also good to allow some time not editing so I could be recharged and be ready to work my hardest when I was editing.
Half asleep and drained creatively does not a good editing session make.
And I do realize a lot of people have deadlines to make, and can’t always take their time. But I think it’s extremely important to make your editing goals as manageable as possible. Because editing takes time and patience and a whole lotta effort.
Speaking of which…
TAKE ONE STEP AT A TIME
Whether you’re simply doing a quick typo sweep or completely rewriting the entire manuscript, editing can be downright scary. But as we’ve discussed, it doesn’t have to be an unconquerable dragon.
The best way to tame that beast? Taking one step at a time.
If you’re looking at the whole disastrous manuscript, line after line after line marked with red ink, countless papers scattered with half a dozen editing notes, and piles of beta-reader feedback, of course you’re going to feel overwhelmed. How are you possibly going to make sense of all of this and turn it into a readable manuscript?
One sentence at a time.
Think about it. That’s all editing is—simply going from the first sentence to the next and fixing them up one at a time.
So instead of looking at the big ol’ novel and many, many editing notes as a whole, sit down, open the document, and start with the opening sentence. If it takes you twenty minutes to simply get one sentence right, THAT’S OKAY. That’s just how editing works. (Again, manageable goals are necessary.)
Whenever I sat down to edit, I would think to myself, “Okay, today I’m going to work on this one chapter and not think about anything else.” And, let me tell you, it took the entire load off! Slowly but surely, I tackled one chapter, one sentence, at a time. And next thing I knew, I was DONE.
As nice as it would be to magically teleport on top of a mountain, that’s not how things work. You gotta take that mountain trail one step at a time. (Unless you actually have a tame pet dragon, then totally just ride the dragon up the moment. But that’s neither here nor there…)
EDITING IS FUN
Say what now? #FAKENEWS. Editing is most certainly not fun. It’s the bane of every writer’s existence, isn’t it?
That does seem to be the stereotype. But if nothing else, these last few editing sessions has taught me something about myself: I love editing.
Seriously? The girl who avoided it for OVER HALF HER LIFE? Who wouldn’t even think of doing such a thing as the dreaded rewriting? Who has claimed for her entire writing life that first drafting is her favorite part of the writing process?
I like editing, guys. A lot! In fact…I think I prefer it over writing the first draft. (If my teenage self heard this she would be swearing that her adult self has been replaced by some alien imposter.) But hear me out! Yes, first drafting is an amazing experience of discovery and truly living the story as it unfolds. But good grief it’s HARD. There’s nothing there. NOTHING. All you’ve got is a blank word document and blinking cursor sitting there mocking you. You’ve got to create EVERYTHING. A setting, people, a plot, side plots, every. single. WORD.
But with editing? It’s all there. The entire foundation has already been built. Instead of doing construction work, you’re just rearranging and dusting the furniture in the already built building. (Okay, now I’m making it sound like a hate first drafting which is entirely untrue. But who would I be if I didn’t make dramatic analogies? Really now.)
Confession time: I like cleaning. I’m a total neat-freak. If there’s one thing out of place in my room, I have a heart attack. And, turns out, my perfectionist self translates to someone who rather enjoys editing. It’s so satisfying seeing my story become something clean and polished. And I also find the challenge of reworking each sentence into something better enjoyable, instead of having to individually write each sentence from nothing.
Yes, with first drafts you can be as messy and carefree as you like, which is great. But there’s also something so nice about having everything already laid out and merely shaping it into something prettier.
Back when I did the first round of edits for Burning Thorns in 2016, this crazy realization that I enjoyed editing first appeared. But this second set of revisions grew my love for the editing process even more. Do you realize out of the many, many weeks I was editing, I can only recall one of those weeks that I was just not having fun? It’s a true miracle.
So I say all this to say: YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE SCARED OF EDITING. Take it from a girl who was petrified of it for years and years and years. Is it hard work? Yes. Is it overwhelming? Absolutely. Will it give you a headache on a constant basis? No doubt about it. But is it worth it? 100000%.
The satisfaction that comes from seeing that manuscript turn into something beautiful is indescribable. And who knows, you might have fun along the way!
I realize basically all of these points are obvious. You’ve heard it all before. But for some reason, none of this really clicked with me until these edits. So I wanted to share in case you’re struggling with that scary Editing Dragon yourself.
To sum up it up:
- Stepping away from your book between drafts can do miracles.
- Editing is not destroying your baby but making it beautiful.
- Goals = LIFE but make them manageable for quality edits.
- No need to be overwhelmed, simply take one sentence at a time.
- Have FUN!!! You don’t have to dread it. Enjoy the process!
Editing is just part of the writer’s life. And though there are plenty of funny memes about the terror of it, it doesn’t really have to be awful at all. So go forth! Edit those novels. Tame that dragon. Become a dragonlord and conquer the world! (Or…something.)
Also, let me know if a post about how I did this round of edits interests you. I actually did a post back in 2016 about how I did the first round of edits. But I did this one completely differently because I never seem to write/edit a novel the same way twice because ew consistency.
TALK WITH ME!
I must know your thoughts! Have you plunged into the forays of editing? Are you in the midst of them as we speak? What are some things that have helped you along the way? (I’d LOVE to hear them!) And am I the only weirdo who actually enjoys the editing process???