Monday, July 2, 2018

5 Ways to Conquer the Editing Dragon

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
Editing Dragon


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.



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, 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…



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…)



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.



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???


  1. Perfectly timed post as I jump back into edits for Camp NaNo. I took a break in June, and I'm champing at the bit to get back to work!

    Honestly, I was overwhelmed when I started editing this year, but once I staggered backwards, waiting for everything to stop spinning, and set some easy goals, I found out editing is kinda fun. (Nothing beats writing that first draft, though!)

    And Scrivener. That is helping A LOT.

    1. Really? Awww, I'm so glad!
      How fun you're ready to get back into editing. I do hope it goes amazingly! You've got this! *waves pompoms*

      YES. I think that's the thing about editing--it can get overwhelming FAST. That's why I strongly believe simple, manageable goals are key. And SCRIVENER. Oh my goodness gracious, only my favorite writing program EVERRR!

  2. This post is sooo helpful--thank you!! I finished the first draft of my manuscript back at the beginning of June, and have had trouble working through editing and rewriting. I can tell what the problems are--I'm just not so good at figuring out how to solve the problems. I don't mind editing process though, even as much as it's kicking my butt right now. :P

    1. Aaahhhh! That makes me so happy to hear!

      I feel you. That was exactly me. I knew there WERE problems, I just didn't know how to FIX them, but eventually my subconscious worked it out. Breaks are amazing things, let me tell ya!

      You'll be able to work through it, I know you will. You've got this! ^_^

  3. This was such a great post, Christine! Editing can seem so daunting (because it's ten that you realize just how pothole-ridden your work of art is . . .) but you're right - it can really be fun. I think the hardest two things are keeping motivation and figuring out how to make the changes you know need to happen. But it can be such a rewarding experience. And congrats on finishing your edits for Burning Thorns!!


    1. Thank you, True!
      Oh goodness, yes. Looking at the entire messy manuscript as a whole and realizing you have to fix it ALL is enough to bring a person to tears. But it just takes one little step at a time!

      Keeping up motivation is so, SO hard. That's why I realized I needed small goals. Editing CONSTANTLY wasn't going well. Heh. But exactly what you said. In the end, it's so rewarding.

      Thanks so much, girl! <3

  4. This is a great post! I haven’t done any *serious* edits for my April NaNo project yet - I’m still trying to figure out what I’m doing with it. But this post has inspired me to do that soon!* And I’m actually - excited? - to do it. Thanks, Christine!

    *soon = as soon as I’m done with 204373 other projects that I’m attempting to do simultaneously

    1. Thanks so much! :D
      Aaahhh! I'm thrilled to hear this post helped you get excited for editing. You're gonna rock that manuscript! *fist pump*

      (And goooodness yes, do I understand. So many tasks all the time ugh. o.o)

  5. SO TRUE. One year ago I hated editing, but now it's my best friend for that last reason you listed: it's just rearranging. And for someone who is often a perfectionist, that helps XD

    I think your first point is so important. I used to write first drafts (only about a month), then take only ONE WEEK off before diving back into edits. It was a terrible idea and made me come to dread editing. Now I finished the draft of my current manuscript about three months ago and haven't yet begun edits, but I'm fine with that, because I know my subconscious is working out the problems there.

    Anyway, GREAT POST :D

    1. YES! Sounds like we're total twins in that respect. Editing is very satisfying work for us perfectionists. XD

      Oh man yeah. As a workaholic, it's sometimes hard for me to remember to give myself plenty of time between projects, but it's so, so important. And it's absolutely amazing what all your subconscious will do during that break! It's like you're working without doing anything. MAGIC. I know once you're ready to get back to your story, it's gonna be great!

      Thanks so much, Audrey! ^_^

  6. Bookmarking this! You summed things up so well; I love how clean and simple your list is.
    Aw, I love editing too! I have to make myself not edit, or I'll never write. =)


    1. EEP. Thank you! Someone bookmarking your post is like the highest of compliments! XD I am honored!

      I'm so happy you found my list clean and simple. That was the goal, so I'm pleased it came off well. Editing really doesn't have to be an overwhelming task.

      Really? AWK. That is too great! I feel like such a weirdo because most people hate on editing so bad. But it's really fun! Glad I'm not alone in this belief. *high-fives*

    2. Well, this isn't the first of your posts that I've bookmarked. =)

    3. *blushes* That makes my day! ^_^

  7. Letting things sit is an essential part (at least if you haven't got an editor with a deadline breathing down your neck). I wrote a novel I thought after the fact was worthless, and abandoned it for about a year, but when it started to tug at me again, I went and looked and actually it wasn't as horrible as it first seemed. It just needed a complete rewrite, that was all. . . And here I am more than a year after starting the rewrite, and it's blossomed amazingly, because I came back to it with fresh eyes.

    I'm hoping plenty of time away will help me see potential in another novel I wrote and left, but I'm not exactly certain even that will help that particular one. But time, as it usually does, will tell.

    And I'm so glad you're enjoying editing more than you thought you would. Life is much pleasanter for everyone when our projects are actually enjoyable :).

    1. Absolutely 100% YES. I am a FIRM believer in that now more than ever. There is no better way to truly see the flaws AND the gems than stepping back for a while. I've done the same thing you have and gone back to a story I thought was a disaster only to find it wasn't so terrible after all. That's always a good feeling! I love how your novel has blossomed like that! And hey, even if you don't like everything in your other novel when you return, there is ALWAYS a grain of epicness in every story. You may go back and discover you love the story, or just find a little you like. But anything can be turned into something amazing with enough rewriting!

      And most definitely! It's opened up a whole new world and now I'm already thinking about the next novels I want to edit. It's a delight not being in fear or dread anymore! :D

  8. I SOOOO loved this post! And also needed it....desperately. I am currently working on the second draft (it's actually kind of the third but lol who's even counting at this point) of my WIP, and I am stuck. Terribly stuck. I am so stuck that if I was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I would cement someone's mouth shut. BUT THIS POST!!! !!!! IT HAS HELPED!!!! I think part of my problem has been my mindset about editing -- that it HAS to be this big scary word dragon that is impossible to slay. But your excitement and encouragement is just so contagious??? I WANT TO EDIT ALL OF THE THINGS NOW WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME. XD Thank you SO much for this post, Christine!! I always come away from your blog feeling excited to write... It's the bestest feeling. ��

    1. MEEP. Thank you, Kenzie!

      How exciting you're working on a second (or third, hehe) draft! But ugh. Being stuck is the worst. I am so thrilled this post was helpful to you. You make such a good point, that our mindset is everything. Once I stopped looking at editing as the bane of every writer's existence and found JOY in the process, everything started falling into place.

      "I always come away from your blog feeling excited to write." <--That is one of the best compliments I have ever received about my blog! Because that's exactly what I always thrive for with Musings of an Elf. EEP. Thank you, Kenzie!

      I hope this current draft will start going wonderfully for you! YOU CAN DO THIS, GIRL! *waves pompoms*

  9. Okay, so this is like so helpful for where I am right now. I've finished two books so far this year (WHAT AM I DOING) and so now I have to edit the first one and let the second one sit and not freak out and also write the third this is really timely. Thank you so so much, Christine <3

    1. You have been a writing NINJA this year! (Like seriously, I am in awe.) And I know you're gonna be an editing ninja too! :D So glad this was helpful for you. You're gonna rock the editing game! *fistpump*

  10. I needed this! Your posts are so helpful and encouraging!
    I'm so happy that you finished the edits on Burning Thorns!!!!
    I'm sure it's even better than before. I agree editing can be really satisfying. As a fellow clean freak, I like putting everything in order too.
    Great post and gifs! :D

    1. D'awwww! That makes me ridiculously happy that you think so!

      THANK YOU!!! I am pretty thrilled myself. Hehe. I'm sure there will be many more edits to come, but at least it's getting closer to being what it supposed to be. ^_^

      LOL. Maybe it's just us perfectionists/clean freaks who find editing fun. It's great. XD

      Thanks, Skye! <3

  11. Oh my word, YES! Especially to the taking a break thing. For me, I get so close to my stuff when I'm editing/taking one sentence at a time that I can't see the big picture anymore, and that can be so frustrating. But when I take a break, then the big picture stuff is so much easier to see! (Also, congrats on finished your second edit. That's a huge accomplishment! Good job :D)

    1. I hear ya! Stepping back from the story for a good long while does WONDERS to our perception. Not to mention mental health. Lol. It's so, so important!

      Thank you, Abbey! That's so sweet of you to say! <3

  12. This is probably the best blog post on editing I have EVER read. I love the way you laid it out so well, especially when editing is something we all dread (and who does blog posts on how to edit???).
    I used to hate editing too, but I think what matters the most out of all these things is actually loving what you're editing. When I tried to edit the books I'd written without ever feeling passionate about them, it basically crashed and burned. But the novel I'm currently writing is just so important to me that I absolutely love polishing it and fixing the holes and the bad writing. :D
    I've also tried all these things and they're really helpful. Especially taking the step back and one step at a time. SO IMPORTANT.
    (I'd also LOVE seeing a post on your editing process. That would be awesome :D)

    1. SLDKFJLSKFLJLSDKJFDF. THAT IS THE NICEST THING. I can't tell you how happy that makes me! I was scared this was all obvious information everyone already knows. I'm SO happy you found it helpful!

      You NAILED it! I didn't even think of that! :O You're so, so right. If we're trying to edit something we're not passionate about, of course we're not going to want to put effort into it. But for a story that has captured our heart, we will do whatever it takes to make it the best it can be. Yes! Such a fantastic point.

      Thanks so much, Chelsea! And I will definitely have to scramble together a post about my editing process sometime here. :D

  13. Awesome reminders! I'm writing my current series a little differently, planning to write the entire series and then edit them all together... and when I let myself think about that too much I start to get overwhelmed (of course! I mean... books 4-5 aren't even written, yet!!) So even though I'm not anywhere close to beginning the editing process, this was such a good reminder to take a deep breath and remind myself that slow and steady wins the race.

    I actually quite enjoy editing as well! I do get a little brain-dead if I spend too much time NOT doing any creative work, so I usually finish editing and NEED to start working on a new rough draft for a bit, but I do love editing and refining and polishing and word-smithing my stories to that beautiful shiny polished state.

    1. Thanks, girl!
      Oooh, that sounds like a really cool plan! I more or less did that with a series...except I haven't edited them yet. *sheepish grin* But I found that getting them ALL written helped me see the entire overarching story and now I feel much more equipped to rewrite them. But yeah, such a task can definitely be overwhelming. o.o (Which is why I haven't even started editing them yet...) But you got this! Your drive and dedication to your stories always inspires me!

      I hear that! Drafting and editing both have their place. I think doing one and then the other and keeping a good balance is a brilliant idea, as to not get too burned out on one or the other. Wonderful thoughts!

  14. Thank you so much for this, Christine!! Editing has been a bother for me of late, so this post really helped to give me a different perspective on it. (Like, how it can actually be ENJOYABLE. Whaaaaa??? XD)

    And I agree, making manageable goals is definitely key to good editing. Expecting too much from yourself right away is not the way to go. :P

    1. D'awww! Always happy to be of service. ^_^ I'm sorry that Editing Dragon has not been nice to you lately though. But you can conquer it, girl. I know you can! And yes, you can enjoy it too! YOU'VE GOT THIS!!!

      Oooh goodness, yes. Editing is tedious enough without overloading yourself with it!

  15. Haha these are great points! I actually enjoy the second draft the most, after the big round of edits and then cleaning up the base. It makes me feel happy. I'm in that stage right now with Silver Hood. ^ ^

    1. Thanks! ^_^

      I'm with you! It really makes me happy, too, getting it all cleaned and shiny. How fun you're there with Silver Hood. I hope it goes well for you!


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