The Woes of Editing

6:00 AM

Editing.

Every writer's greatest fear. Every poor novelist's downfall.

You've cranked out a massive manuscript. A whoppin' 100k beastie.

And it is. a. wreck.

WHAT TO DOOOO? WHERE TO GO??? GET THE COFFEE BREWING PLEASE AHHHHHH.

Editing is terrifying. It is a massive, carnivorous BEAST. If you're not careful, it will eat you alive.

But like, what even is editing? I have composed a definition for you.

Editing: a brutal process designed specifically to slaughter any writer whose bones are not constructed of titanium.

Jk, jk.

(mostly)

While that definition is certainly true, it doesn't help us much. Let's try this instead.

Editing: anything you do to your novel after completing its first draft.

There we go. I can work with this.

My definition of editing is anything you do to your novel, beneficial or not, after the first draft has been written. Editing is what you do after you've laid the ground work.

Which (since I like lists) leads me to my first woe of editing.






Woe 1: Editing does not always make your book better.

I know, I know. *lets the shudder ripple through readers* But it's true. I can 'edit' my book, completely changing chapter one, and it could be worse than the first try. That's just reality. It isn't fun. It isn't nice.

The goal, of course, is to improve. But sometimes, that just doesn't happen.

Now, before you storm off yelling nasty insults at me, let me make something else clear: you can always write another draft.

Sometimes, we have to wreck our books to make them better.

Anyone here know about Rubik's cubes? I learned how to solve one last year. My little brother taught me, step by step. You start with a mess of colors. Then you make the bottom layer the same color. And then the next layer. And you work your way up to the top. And then there comes a point where there are three little pieces out of place. You're three pieces away from a solved cube.

And to put those three little pieces where they need to go, you have to ruin the cube.

Seriously. There's an algorithm. If you stop in the middle of it and just look at your cube, it will appear to be a wreck. If I ever stop, I always get messed up.

So I don't think about it. I don't think about how, to everyone else, it looks like I'm ruining all my progress. I just do it.

And then -- what do you know? It's solved.

I'm not saying editing is going to be that easy, but you have to keep in mind that sometime you have to seemingly wreck things to make them better.


Woe 2: There are a gazillion ways to write a scene.

Like, seriously. Say your MC and his mom are fighting. This could happen in MC's bedroom, the kitchen, the car, the hallway. It could happen in the morning right before school. It could happen as soon as he gets home. It could happen on the way to school.

And then, what they're fighting about - they could fight about a gazillion things. I assume since it's in the story, there's a purpose for the fight, but there are so many ways to word the comebacks.

Point being, you could write a single scene a million times, each way completely different, yet supposedly the same.

HOW DO YOU CHOOSE?

Choosing is hard. What if the way you've done it isn't good enough? What if it would be better this way? What if ...?

My advice for this danger would be to wait for betas. If you have doubts about how the scene happened, give it to betas or your critique partner and have them look it over. Do they feel the same way? If so, talk it out.

Don't let yourself fall into woe 3.
 
Woe 3: The Sloth Complex

You are a human.

Not a sloth.

Don't let one scene that doesn't feel right turn you into one. Just let go and move on. Your writer buddies will help you. Staying with that scene is just going to make you a nervous wreck. It's not going to help. Plus, moving on will help more than staying put. It will give you fresh perspective on the scene. It will also allow you to finish the draft and then you know everything that happens and can fine tune it to be properly foreshadowed.

Just move on. Your critique partner and betas will help you.

 
Woe 4: "IT MUST BE PERFECT"

NO.

NOOOOOOO. noooooo.

just. no.

SHUT YO MOUTH WRITE NOW.

(hehe. you see what I did there? Yeah? aha. ha. ehem.)

I'm going to tell you guys something you probably won't like.

Your book will never be perfect.

You know why?

Because it is art. There is no perfect way. There just isn't. Since there is always another way you can write it, you have to remind yourself that you aren't writing it those ways. You're writing it this way. There are other ways that might be better, but no way is 'perfect' because there is no perfect way.

Are you with me on this?

It cannot be perfect. But it can be good. And it will be good. You just have to stick with it and keep trying. Don't give up.

 
 
Woe 5: "Must Start New Project Because This Isn't Good Enough" syndrome

I'm really feeling this right now.

Like, it would just be so eeeeeassssyyyyyy to start a new book. I love the thrill and freedom of first drafts. It's so glorious. But. There's something to remember: when you finish that first draft, it's going to need editing too.

And then you'll have TWO manuscripts to edit. So my advice would be to space it out. WAIT. Be patient. Let yourself write a new project, but wait at least until you've made it through the next draft of your story. Right now, I'm letting my next project The Dream Walkers stew in the back of my mind. When I finish draft 2, I'm going to let myself write it. Maybe draft 3 ... it depends on how thoroughly this draft kills me. We shall see.

Point being: it's really, really good motivation and bribery. So find something to bribe yourself with and push onward! You've got this!

You're not a sloth and you're not a machine. You're a lovely human with a gift and passion to write. Give yourself a pat on the back! Editing is hard.

There are so many other woes of editing that I could cover. But I think I've said enough for today. XP

*hugs all the stalker humans and hands out chocolate and coffee*

SO. Now it's your turn. What woes have you unearthed in the editing process? Do you struggle with any of these in particular, and do you have a certain way of dealing with it that I neglected to mention?

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35 comments

  1. *freaks out because I'm terrified of editing* BEST OF LUCK TO YOU IN EDITING!

    I've maybe said this a gazillion times but I have never edited a novel I've written. I guess I HAVE edited essays and articles, and the biggest struggle for me is how to start and end them!

    Woe #2 freaks me out. The possibilities are so overwhelming, I never even thought of that.

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    1. Ahhhhhhh please don't freak out! This is my first novel I've been serious about and I'm still learning a lot. PLEASE DONT PSYCH YOURSELF UP ABOUT IIIIT. It's hard, but it's so worth it. Your book /will/ be better for it eventually. Just keep pushing forward! <3

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  2. LUCKILY, I am still on the first draft of my first novel... Yeah, I'm nervous for the editing stage. Everyone (meaning all but one of the 15 bloggers I follow) says editing is hard... *nervous chuckle*

    Right now... I'm a bit in the sloth stage of my first draft. Im like, "Uh... Why are my characters here, and not here? How do I write this BETTER? WHY AM I SO BAD AT WRITING???"

    SO........ yeah. Good luck to me. And to you.

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    1. Awwwww nooooooo YOURE NOT BAD AT WRITING. REMEMBER, THERE REALLY IS NO SET WAY. YOURE NOT BAD, BUT YOULL GET BETTER. *hugs*

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    2. Aww thanks :) *hugs back*

      And by 'bad' I meant like the plot, holes, and consistency. But I suppose that's where second drafting and editing come in... *shudder*

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    3. Ugh yeah. Plot holes *shudders* and it's hard for me to keep track of time, too. Like, it could be noon and then morning in the same chapter, in that order, and I wouldn't even realize it XP

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    4. Lol... I've done that XP

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    5. Hehe I think it's a fairly common struggle among we writer folk, so I suppose that makes me feel a little better XP

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  3. I struggle with wanting to change it all! It's good, but I can't do that four times, each time changing it all!

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    1. Yeah, same! It's like, if I just change it it will be better, right? RIGHT???? But I have to be like, NO. THIS IS HOW IT'S GONNA BE

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  4. *hugs post because I loved it*

    When I wrote my novella, I would edit as I went. #perfectionistalert That DID NOT work, as you can probably guess. :P Then I'd just muddle my brain, and everything went caflooie. But I'm fine with that, since that thing was the cliche MONSTER. (you know... the kind with big realism-sucking tentacles and that injects deadly doses of cheesy plotlines and flat characters. :)

    Even though I haven't had all that much experience with editing myself, I'm sort of dreading the day when I will have to. :P BUT I WILL BOOKMARK THIS POST AND YOUR 'VANQUISH THE FEARFUL WRITER' ONE IF I NEED THEM. :D

    (Also, random question: Have you read the Ilyon Chronicles by Jaye L. Knight? Because they are the bestest things ever and you should totally read them and ahhh I'm rambling.)

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    1. *sympathetic nodding* I feel that. *hugs* Editing as I went did not work for me. XP And no, I haven't but I looked it up on GR and I will have to read it! It looks very good! :D

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  5. Oh gosh, don't even SAY that word to me. It's so horrifying right now, I can't. NOTHING IS COMING TOGETHER BUT AT THE SAME TIME IT'S SORT OF WORKING AUGH. This draft I'm working on, draft 3, is a complete rewrite so it's kind of frustrating. Because I've written this book before, twice. Three times is just... ugh no. But I think it's coming along better now. *whispers* having like 15 days left to finish it though is killing me. BUT THEN I AM RECRUITING BETA-READERS WHICH IS A WHOOOLE OTHER LEVEL OF TERRIFYING. *cough* okay sorry this was kind of rant, bye

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    1. Ugh I know that feel XP ahhhh are you going to ask for betas on your blog? *cough cough hint hint* Why do you only have 15 days to finish? YOUVE GOT THIS, GIRL *sends chocolate and coffee*

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    2. Yessss I will be asking for betas *coughs next week coughs* and I PLAN to send the novel out the first week in June.

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    3. AHHHHHHHHHHHH *screams forever* I'M SO EXCITED I CANT WAIT AHHHHHH

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    4. I'm glad you're excited because I AM TERRIFIED AND POSSIBLY LOSING MY MIND BUT WHATEVER

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    5. IT'LL BE OKAY

      ALL WRITERS HAVE TO BE A /LITTLE/ CRAZY XP

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  6. EDITING IS THE WORST OH MY GOSH AND I HATE IT SO MUCH. *wails and sends chocolate*

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    Replies
    1. RIGHT??? *wails also and shares chocolate with you* we writers gotta stick together, eh? XP

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  7. ACK THIS POST IS SO AMAZING

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    1. AWWWW THANKSSS *happy flailing* YOUUUU ARE SO AMAZING! <3

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  8. It's the worst, but this post really inspired me to just do it! :D

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  9. I TOTALLY UNDERSTAND WOE 5 THANK YOU IT'S IN WORDS.

    BTW I've never actually finished a first draft. (working on that) let alone edit one, so this post really motivated me. :D

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    1. Hi, Hannah! I'm so glad this motivated you! :D

      Finishing a draft is soooooo fulfilling. YOU GOT THIS!

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  10. Number five is my life. I am so bad for that but it's worked out so far at least...
    Thanks for this helpful post! I enjoyed reading your editing woes.

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    1. Thank you for reading! <3 I think number five is the easiest and most tempting part of editing *sighs*

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  11. *is almost done with first draft*
    *is rewriting entire novel into a different genre*
    *screams helplessly*
    I'M GOING TO DIE HANNAH HELP. *reads post* Oh wait never mind I've got this thanks anyhow. XD

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    1. REALLY??? IM SO EXCITED FOR YOU, JON!!!!!!! :DDDD
      Good luck!

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    2. OH MY GOODNESS DUDE

      HOW.

      YOUVE GOT THIS, DUDE. *hands over all the sour patch kids*

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  12. "SHUT YO MOUTH **WRITE NOW." Really? xDD Young people and puns these days *cough, cough*

    The problem for me is that I keep on re-writing my stories so that they aren't even up to 10 chapters! I have a lot to do this summer! For real!

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    1. *sheepish grin* what can I say? I'm a punny girl XP

      Hehe. He. Ehem.

      Yes, rewriting is a very tempting thing to do ... You've got this! <3

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  13. "Your book will never be perfect.
    You know why?
    Because it is art. There is no perfect way." <<stealing your quote.
    Oh my, this was great. I do nee to bribe myself with something. Maybe ice cream? Yes.

    A frequent writing woe that I've uncovered is: "This is so tacky and of my gosh whoever reads this will just be rolling their eyes constantly at the dumbness."
    However, that could just be me. It's probably just "I've-read-this-draft-too-many-times" syndrome. Or possibly "I'm-telling-instead-of-showing" syndrome ;)

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    1. Hehe well tank yah XP And I stand by it! And bribery works wonders, yesyes.

      Ugggggggh yesssss I feel that UGH. Sometimes just a nice, long break is needed when that starts to happen. Like, a work-on-different-project-break. That gives you fresh eyes and makes you excited (hopefully) to get back to work on the old one! :D

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