Let’s face it. Editing can be a drag. When you’re first writing your manuscript, you’re so into it. You’re discovering things about the story, the characters, the plot- it’s all new and exciting- and every scene is just a blasty blast to write. And then, when you type that final period, when you write those final two words, THE END, you sit back and marvel at what you’ve accomplished. Then, out of the darkness, a two ton, pissed off, ego-smashing bull comes waltzin on in to the china shop that is your motivation towards writing. You realize you have sit down and, basically, do it all again. Except this time, all of that excitement and discovery you felt during the writing of the initial manuscript is gone. And you realize it’s work. And work sucks.
So how do you combat this? How do you make editing fun? How do keep your sanity or your spirits up while you slog through the tedious process that is editing? Well, here’s what I think.
First off, create a writing ritual. Have a certain way that you enter into your writing lair each day. It will give you stability, make it feel more like a routine, and it’s actually somewhat of a stress reliever. I read an article recently that described ways of making a routine, like, say a prayer before you start, read a little poetry, or listen to music. Do SOMETHING that is going to get your creative juices flowing before you start.
Take me for example. I wake up, take a shower, read over my emails, have a cup of coffee, and smoke a cigarette (I don’t advise that last part). Then, by that point, I’m awake. I’m focused. I’ve been thinking about the work to come since I opened my eyes. I’m ready to plant my but in a chair and get to work.
But WAIT, there’s more!
Having a routine to enter into your writing or editing is great. It really does help, believe it or not. But I have a few more tips that I really think make the work of editing less dreadful. First off, start by reading the last little bit that you’ve edited. It will get you back into the same mode that you were in when you last sat down. AND there’s an added benefit. You’ll be able to pick up on the little things that need to be tweeked as you go through it, saving you time in the long run. Then, after you’ve read over your last bit of work, get started.
When I’m editing, I frequently feel the wafting wave of discouragement that seems to be so present during this part of writing. But, I have a trick that helps me ignore it. Think about it this way. Every single word, letter, and punctuation mark that you edit is one step closer to publication. You can literally see your progress as you go, and you realize that you’re only a few steps away from your dream. It helps. It gives me a boost of encouragement. Every time I look down, I see how many more thousands of words I need to edit before that dream, and I get a little bummed. But then a few minutes later I look down and that number is smaller! It’s a good feeling.
Another big tip, one that you might not have thought of. Sit somewhere with a lot of natural light. I know it may sound strange, but it does a lot of good. Natural light seems to have a way of keeping us awake, making us feel good, and it keeps us from realizing that we’re basically writing in a cave. It’s probably all of that vitamin D it’s giving us. I always did love me some vitamin D.
Now. If you’re starting to feel the drag of editing, so much so that you’re looking over obvious things, or just taking the time to screw around on Facebook, or Twitter, or whatever, instead of doing your edits- take a break! Go outside, take a walk, grab another cup of coffee, call a friend, do something! Taking your mind off of your work for a little while will revitalize your spirit, give you those more than necessary fresh eyes, and get the blood flowing back to your brain. To be frank, that’s why I’m writing this blog. I’m getting my mind off of the edits for a moment, just long enough to revitalize my spirit! Plus, all this talk about editing is making me want to get back to editing. Weird how that works.
And my final tip. If you’re reading over your work, and getting kind of bored with the story overall, OR you feel like scenes just aren’t up to par, why not kill some babies? I’m sure you’ve all heard that term, “Don’t be afraid to kill your babies” in reference to writing. I promise it’s a thing. I am not advocating ACTUALLY killing babies. That’s bad. If you’re wanting to spice your work up, now’s the time. You’re in the editing phase. If you wanna toss in a fight scene, do it! If you want there to be more dialogue, add it! This can make editing feel less like grammar control and more like story development, bringing back some of that excitement from the initial drafting.
So, let’s put that all together into a nice, simple list of advice.
- Have a writing ritual
- Read over the last little bit you wrote/edited
- Realize that you are actively taking steps towards your dream
- Sit somewhere with a lot of natural light
- Take a break when you need to! Get that blood flowing!
- Add a scene, a conversation, something. Keep your creativity flowing!
Look, if you’re a writer, you know that edits are not the most enjoyable thing in the world. But, if you try to look at it in the way that you are actively making your work better, taking steps towards that goal of publication, and making sure that you are providing the best possible work you are capable of, it will feel like less of a drag. I promise. Half of having a positive attitude is convincing yourself that you should have a positive attitude!