Thursday, August 22, 2013

Beating the Editing Blues

In my limited experience there are two types of writers: the kind that approach editing with a giant axe, squealing with glee; and the others who look at their writing as if it is the one holding the axe, sharpened and ready to hack at the writer's soul, and who see their first drafts as a quagmire of stagnant prose, characters with the emotional range of moss, and plot twists as captivating as pond scum.

I tend to swing back and forth.

During rough times of quagmire wading, it's important to stay positive. Editing in a negative, sullen mood is not as productive or enjoyable as editing in a cheerful mood.

But when your characters are trying to drown you in a stinking pit of cliched dialogue, how do you stay positive? Below are some things I've found helpful.

Find a good writing community and ask for help.
Finding people who have been where you are and who can offer support is a good starting place. Last week, I had a bad editing day, and I asked for tips on getting through it on the Go Teen Writers Facebook group. (That group is fantastic, by the way.) I didn't get many answers other than simply "stay positive", but interacting with people who'd been in the same place I was in and had gotten through it was encouraging.

Learn to kill your darlings. 
Once I was comfortable cutting bits of my "precious" first draft, things got easier. I was no longer constrained by the chains of my faulty prose. Example: I recently decided that the one character who dies, shouldn't die. Her death means nothing. I can use her for better purposes if she stays alive. I also decided that her love interest didn't need to be at the manor after all. He did nothing there, and if the girl lived, he had no reason to leave their village. However, cutting that subplot meant cutting some of my favorite scenes with the guy's little sister. She's adorable. I love writing her. I didn't want to take the axe to them, but once I did, it let me explore other and better options for the story. Now that the guy isn't at the manor, other stuff happens, stuff that is better for the story.

Any darlings that get cut I put in a deleted scenes doc, so I can use them again, should the need arise.

I once said that editing is a cross between cutting off your best friend's arm and giving them a much-needed makeover. I still agree with this. And, if your best friend has a third arm that really gets in the way and is entirely useless, even if it's pretty, it's better that it comes off.   Your words aren't written in stone. If something needs to go, it should go. You'll write something better to replace it.

 When you reach the point where you want to strangle someone, take a break. 
This is not a good mindset to edit in. Step away from the computer, set down the red pen. Go outside and take a walk. Read a book. Bathe the dog. Get out of your head.

Talk to someone about your story. 
My mom is by brainstorming partner. When I get stuck, I can talk with her. She knows pretty much the whole story, as she helped plan and plot before I even started writing it. Sometimes hashing an idea out with her sparks a new idea or shows me how to fix a problem.  

Beta read/critique for someone else.
Earlier this summer I started reading Embassy by S. Alex Martin. Reading someone else's work can give you practice editing and spotting rough spots, without having to worry about fixing them.   

When you think you're a horrible writer, remember that the fact that you recognize you're first draft is terrible means you're a good writer.
I found a quote on Pinterest once that stuck with me:
"The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize." - Robert Hughes
 The fact that you know it could be better means you have the ability to fix it. Always remember that you can fix it. You may need to practice, or learn some more, and it may take a while, but you can fix it.

Listen to happy music and/or read encouraging sayings.
I created a YouTube play list of encouraging songs, and I pin encouraging quotes onto one of my Pinterest boards. Here's one of my favorites. Here's another, and another, and here's a funny, though it isn't very encouraging.

And that's all I've got off the top of my head. Hope you find it helpful!

And a fabulous day/night/morning/whatever to you.


  1. Excellent commentary on the editing process. You are really growing as a writer!

  2. Some tasks in the process [any process] just aren't much fun. The trick is to stick with it and make consistent progress. Eventually you'll make it more efficient and it'll get done.

  3. Good tips! Thank you. :) I do a lot of those things myself. :)

    Stori Tori's Blog

    1. You're quite welcome! :) Glad I could be of some assistance.