'For this month's blog hop, I'm stealing my own article that was featured on Women Writers, Women's Books blog. (I can steal my own stuff, right?!)
Surviving the Dank and Lonely Editing Cave
All writers know the woes of editing: The empty loneliness that sometimes accompanies us in our dark, dank, and dusty writing caves. The desire to slam your face into your keyboard because hey, maybe that will solve your plot hole. We’ve all pleaded to the writing gods to help unflatten our characters, help add to or lessen our word count, help turn those ear-grating sentences into shimmering gold. (Or at least I have.)
Some writers claim drafting is easier than editing. Some say the opposite. All I know for sure? Writing is hard. Editing is hard. Being a writer is hard. Period.
Now, my editing spree began with two months of editing a YA novel for the writing contest, Pitch Wars. This was my first time with strict deadlines that weren’t self-imposed. So I set up a plan: if I edited one chapter a day, I’d finish by the due date. Seemed easy enough. Well…the joke was on me because—ha ha!—it was hard. There were certain scenes that needed fixing and I simply didn’t know how to fix them. There were days I’d stare at the screen and my words for so long that I’d fall into that special brand of writer’s despair.
I wondered why I do this, why I write. It’s torture. And every writer knows it.
But it’s a self-induced torture, and we write because we love it. Maybe that makes us masochists. Maybe it makes us crazy—or maybe just plain awesome. But once you get to the point where you’re editing a novel, you’ve already completed a draft, which is an amazing accomplishment on its own. By now, you haven’t given up because something inside you insists you write. Your words, your story, your voice—they matter to you, and you want them to matter to someone else.
And this is why we put ourselves through the endless torture of editing. The end result is beautiful.
But along the way, it’s so easy to want to give up and throw in the towel. There were plenty of times while editing my YA that I thought: I don’t think this is good enough. What if I didn’t add enough emotion? What if I missed something? Ah, yes. Crippling self-doubt is a dear friend of us writers.
As soon as I finished my Pitch Wars manuscript—literally—I received my first set of edits from my editor at Entangled for my upcoming NA novel. I allowed myself a few days to freak out about the two-week deadline and the thought of going back to my editing cave right when I thought I’d been set free. Figured a mini freak-out was okay, right? But then it was back to business.
All of those feelings I had about polishing my YA novel? My brain went on repeat. And when I finally turned in that set of edits, it was only a handful of days before I received the next set. This process repeated two more times before my manuscript was finally DONE.
And then you know what happened? The best thing: I got another publishing deal. (Yay!) But after all the wooing and the jumping up and down, I remembered what that meant—more editing. More deadlines. More self-doubt. But I’ve learned a few things about the editing cave in my months spent contained within it. Things that have helped me, and hopefully they’ll help you when your brain screams, “Please, no, MAKE IT STOP!”
1 – Your draft doesn’t have to be perfect—any draft. (Except for the one that gets published, but even then, nothing is “perfect”.) Your first draft will undoubtedly be utter crap. Your second draft might be crap, too, but it’s better than it was. It has to be. Whether you’re editing on your own, using a critique partner’s notes, or following your editor’s suggested changes, you’re always improving your writing. Every edit is adding another layer of shine. Remember that and keep going. Isn’t there a saying about getting out of your own way? Yeah, that’s your brain telling you that you suck. But you know what? Your brain is a rotten liar.
2 – You do need days off. Days where you turn off the writer/editor inside you completely. (Or as much as you can.) Otherwise you will end up banging your head against your keyboard until you shatter it to itsy bitsy pieces. Don’t do that! Taking a little time off is not procrastinating. It’s necessary. Unless you want to dive off the deep end. ;)
3 – Writing friends are another necessity. Most of us don’t have friends and family who are writers, and we know they just don’t get it. Critique partners, beta readers, and the like—they do. It’s imperative to have at least one go-to writing friend. Someone you can email or text and simply whine to. Someone who will talk you off the ledge when all you really want to do is jump. My writing friends have kept me from jumping more times than I’d care to admit, and I’m eternally grateful to have them around.
4 – Subjectivity deserves its own article so I’ll only briefly mention that you must remember it exists. It’s real, and confusing, and frustrating as hell. Whether you’re looking at notes from a CP, an agent, or an editor, a lot of that feedback is subjective. This is one of the hardest parts about writing and editing. You will never please everyone. So read those notes, decide what you agree with, maybe cut a few darlings, or try out a brainstorming session. (Also, remember to breathe.)
It’s easy to want to give up. Easy to think is this really worth it? I’m positive that feeling will never disappear for any of us. But coming from a girl who’s spent five months in an ugly editing cave with no signs of escaping anytime soon, I can tell you, it is so worth it.
What are your thoughts on being stuck in the editing cave? Have any additional tips to share? Please share! <3