Today’s piece of advice for writing a novel is one I learned the hard way. While editing, I am guilty as all get out of violating this nugget of wisdom time and again. Even after I’ve learned the value of it from experience, I still go against the rule way more than I should. But the times I do realize what I’m doing and check myself, things go much smoother when I edit.
So, what’s the tip?
DON’T continuously edit one paragraph or chunk of paragraphs for too long in one sitting.
What constitutes too long? It will vary a bit from person to person, but generally you’ll know you’re reaching that point:
- If you find yourself having to reread the first sentences of the paragraph time and time again because you can’t keep them straight and they’re jumbling together
- If you’re going back to reread the paragraph after every minor change, then making more minor changes, and then going to the beginning again, only to repeat the process ad nauseam
- If you can’t decide whether or not the paragraph is a gem or utter slough because the cases for both are equally convincing
- If the computer screen or page is starting to physically blur before your eyes
This has totally happened to me more times than I can count. And it’s such a waste of my time! I get nothing accomplished in sessions when I get stuck on one section like that. All I do is frustrate myself and start to doubt what the heck I’m doing.
If you find this happening to you, follow these instructions.
- Step away.
- Seriously. STEP AWAY.
- Ask yourself: is this section bugging me because really, it just doesn’t need to be here? Can I cut it? Cut a part of it? (Sometimes that’s proven my best solution.)
- If YES, then cut.
- If NO, then wait at least twenty minutes or half an hour. Do something else productive. Then and only then return to the WIP.
I remember distinctly wasting about half an hour dealing with two paragraphs because I just didn’t like how they were worded. I debated changing things. Then I changed them. Then I decided I needed to change them back. I was just being picky. It was a late night editing session, which is rare for me. I was tired. I finally saved the doc and decided to return to it the next morning.
THE NEXT MORNING
Refreshed, I opened the doc. I went to the problem paragraphs. I read them and realized they were fine and what the heck had I been thinking the night before causing myself anxiety over this non-issue? Seriously.
So please, do yourself a favor and give it a rest when you find yourself doing what I was doing. Your time management skills and your mental health will thank you! 🙂