Me: I can totally finish editing this book by tonight!
*Glances down at page bar. Pages read out of total page count – 53/147.*
Also me: I’m never going to finish…
A WORD ON EDITING
Editing is when a writer becomes inundated with her own work. The read-through, rereading, excessive reading, looking-up/looking-back/looking-through, not to mention shipping it off to an editor who will instruct you to go through his edits carefully, after which you really should follow up with a polish read, then send off to a beta reader (or two or three – not all at once, mind you. You really should only send to one beta at a time in order to keep all edits concise.) Once they’re through, you’ll find yourself going over their edits, which means more reading.
Does it ever end?
This part can be discouraging for writers. It’s a well-known truth that too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. You might find yourself getting bored with your own work. Certain scenes may sound useless and trivial. The ending might feel muddled, confusing, or just plain bad. It’s tempting to give up sometimes. But sometimes, this is where the rubber meets the road and you’re faced with the awe-inspiring realization that you have created something spectacular.
This is the moment every writer lives for. Acknowledgment for oneself that the work is indeed good. You might think the “moment every writer lives for” is when readers first get their hands on a copy of the book, but I say that’s an inaccurate statement. In order to believe what others might say about us, we must first believe it for ourselves.
A hundred people can call you pretty/handsome, but until you look in the mirror and believe it for yourself, those compliments fall on deaf ears.
Your parents may call you brave and stalwart, but until you face down your own fears and see the hero within, you will simply think “they’re being nice.”
A teacher might say that you’re intelligent, creative, but until you review the work of your hands and see the product for what it is – intelligent, creative – you will say, “They’re just trying to be encouraging. They don’t believe it.”
Believe in yourself.
Because this book I’m working on is the sequel in a two-part series, I reread the first book to refresh my memory on the characters and working of the plot. It has been perhaps two years since I published the first book, so I was pleasantly surprised by how much I had forgotten. It took me three days to read it.
Maybe that’s a small book. Or maybe I simply couldn’t put it down.
Arrogant? I think not. There’s nothing wrong with getting excited about your own work. If you don’t, no one else will. There’s a difference between bragging excessively and wanting to share something you are passionate about.
Forgetting and rereading the first book cemented in my mind that, yes, I had created something spectacular. You see, after publication, I revert to this overwhelming phobia that my work wasn’t polished up to par, or that I didn’t describe the world well. Sometimes I fret that the characters aren’t true to themselves, or that readers will discover all my plot holes. I became paranoid. My work wasn’t good. My writing was terrible. Now everyone will see it.
(Admittedly I would like to polish up the first book more, just because I’ve learned so much about editing in the past two years, and I would like to fix the esthetic appeal of the read.)
In my rediscovery, I found the story flowed exceedingly well. I was impressed with my own characters. I cheered for their growth and successes. My heart began to pound everytime they encountered danger, and the horror of the cliffhanger left my palms sweaty and my hands shaking.
This was everything I dreamed it would be.
Now I’m 53 pages into the second installment. I have been meticulously editing, molding, and reshaping the words so that they are their clearest, so that they speak their best, describe their best, and read their easiest. I have been merciless, cutting out anything that detracts from the story. And the most surprising realization is that there is no pain in editing.
People like to say that editing feels like your heart being torn out, but I’ve never experienced that – thank the Maker. My purpose in writing is to tell a story and introduce these characters – these delightful little people I’ve imagined – to the world. I want them to look their best, so I wipe off their smudges, scrub the dirt off them, polish and shine them, and proudly look on as they make their way across the stage.
Editing should not be all painful.
Editing should be the proudest moments of your project. When you can honestly look down at the work and say, “Yeah. This is really good. And it can be better.”
I want to encourage you – whatever you’re working on – that this can be an exciting and rewarding time. If you enter the editing mode with grudging and fear, you will experience grudging and fear. But if you enter with positivity, excitement, and hope, then you will experience those feelings instead.