The real truth of writing is that you will spend a lot of time editing. A. Lot. Of. Time. Hours, weeks, months, sometimes even years (or at least, what feels like years).
When the rush of new ideas is gone. When the thrill of filling in plot holes and working out twists is over. When the story’s set in stone but you still need to shape that stone into a majestic statue, that’s editing. And it’s something, as a writer, you need to love doing.
The first step of learning to love editing is accepting you must do it. The sooner you do, the easier it is to work through drafts that feel endless.
And they will. You will probably spend more time editing than anything else. This isn’t because you’re a bad writer who can’t get the words right on the first or fifth draft. It’s because editing is a layered beast.
It’s not just tinkering with sentences or adding a comma and then removing it three hours later. It’s making sure every word is the right one, that the story works, the chapters are in the right order and so many other things that will create your completed MS. When you accept that editing is all of that and more, it’s easier to love it and to get excited for the work ahead.
Commit To It
When you’ve accepted that you need to edit and it will be a big job, it’s time to commit to doing that job right.
As with writing, the more you edit the better you get at it, so learn and practice those skills. When you have an idea about what you’re doing, instead of feeling like your floundering around, it makes it much easier to stay on task, and to enjoy the job of editing.
The key to getting any task done is organization! This doesn’t require you to become an organizing guru with post-it notes and highlighters (although they’re fun to buy), all you need to get on top of editing is to follow a simple schedule.
Break your editing into doable chunks—say one or two chapters a day. Plan a time to edit, such as the first hour in the morning, your lunch break, after dinner, or just before you go to bed, and stick to it. Easy peasy.
It’s mentally draining to edit for months on end. You aren’t creatively stringing together words, you’re going over those words, again and again, and again. And then again.
In situations like that, it’s very easy to get discouraged and not feel the “love” for editing I promised at the start of this post. A great workaround is to set up a rewards system!
Edited 50 pages? You get a cookie. Edited 20 chapters? Your favorite chocolate. Reached the end of the draft, but you need to do another pass? Before diving back in, take a break for a day, go see a movie, and refuel yourself with popcorn. Editing every day for a week? Have a fancy tea and cake at your favorite cafe. Reached the end of your editing? Buy yourself a new book.
Implement a rewards system, enjoy those rewards, and if that doesn’t make you love editing—nothing will!
— K.M. Allan