Editing is a necessary evil of writing. On one hand, it shapes your book into something others can read, on the other hand, it can drive a writer crazy.
Just the thought of having to go back through that first chapter one more time makes the option of throwing in the towel just as attractive as throwing your laptop out the window.
But if you never edit, you’ll never sort out your plot, your characters, or your words. To try and make the task easier, here are some fun ways to keep yourself sane during endless edits.
Turn It Into A Game
While you’ll be forgiven for immediately wanting this game to be of the drinking variety, that probably won’t work out too well if you’re knocking back a shot every time you find a typo. Instead, set yourself small challenges, such as editing at least three chapters by the end of the day, slashing the first five words on your Repeats list, or cutting out one unnecessary sentence from every scene. When you’ve done those things, you’ve won. And when you win, you get to…
Celebrating the completion of your writing goals with a new book or going out to lunch is motivation enough to get you through the edits, but during them, when you’re wondering if you’ll ever end up with anything the resembles a finished book, you need to find other ways to reward yourself.
It might be capping off editing half of your chapters with a small square of chocolate (or the whole block, if we’re being realistic). Rewarding yourself with takeout on Friday night after a week of filling in plot holes. Or if you’re one of those people who doesn’t actually reward yourself with food (and can tell me how to do that. I’m asking for a friend), go to a movie, splurge on a new notebook or a mug with a funny picture or slogan. Whatever you consider a ‘reward’, give it to yourself for an editing job well done, and remember how good it feels when you start your next round of edits.
Take A Break
Some days, the fun of games and all of the chocolate in the world aren’t going to make you feel like you’re not drowning in your edits. There will come a point when the job will feel too huge. You’ll sit at your desk, staring at the screen because you don’t know how to fix all the issues, or even what the problem is with chapter three that has you so stuck. When you find yourself in a situation like that, take a break. Go for a walk, go to the beach, go shopping, go out with friends. Just get away from your computer and the edits, and give yourself some breathing room. When you’re ready to come back to the page…
Just Get On With It
At the end of the day, the bottom line, and every other cliché I can throw in here is that you need to just get on with the edits! It may feel like you’ve been doing it forever, that you’re making things worse, and that it would be easier for someone else to do it for you, but all of that work will have done something.
Cutting your darlings, rounding out your characters, foreshadowing the plot twists, and straightening out your timeline has shaped your book. Now, instead of just words you threw on the page, you have a plot, chapters, and characters that make sense. You have sentences that flow into paragraphs, and just the right amount of dialogue tags. All of this is because you persevered and made it through your edits!
It might have taken longer than you wanted, and you probably spent too much of those editing hours thinking of games to play. You might have had to start walking more to work off the chocolate you ate whenever you rewrote a scene, but now you have an edited book. One that is ready for beta readers, submissions, queries, and rejections—all of the options that will soon make you realize that endless edits are actually the sanest part of writing. Good luck!
— K.M. Allan