4 Reasons to Keep Going When Editing Gets Tough

1148655_vintage_fountain_pen_3Today my mind is on editing again, because I’m still editing my second edition of the Herezoth trilogy. And as much as some days I REALLY feel the itch to be writing again and feel that the autumn can’t get here fast enough, editing is cool, even if it’s tough. It’s worth doing, and it’s worth doing well.

It’s not all fun and games, but here are four reasons to persevere when editing makes you want to pull your hair out:

1. YOU HAVE YOUR STORY.

The most enjoyable, but in a lot of ways, the most challenging part of writing is discovering your story. If you’re editing, that’s DONE. You might cut some things. You might rearrange some things. But generally, once you’ve gotten your draft down and you move on to editing, your basic story is in place.

How reassuring is that? It’s a great relief. In a very real way, your labor of love and creation is finished. Editing is the icing on the cake. The cake, though, is DONE.

2. YOU HAVE HELP!

Remember, you have people to help you edit. Editors, beta readers…. Discovering when and how to improve your story is almost impossible to do by yourself, but you’re not alone there. You have support. Even a supportive group of people! You can’t really have “help” during the creative process, which is one reason, as I said above, it is in many ways the most difficult part of the writing process (even it’s also all the fun!).

3. IT TRAINS YOU HOW TO RECOGNIZE WHAT’S IMPORTANT IN LIFE, AND WHERE TO MAKE LIFE CUTS

Making cuts can be difficult on an emotional level. Every writer knows that. But you know what? LIFE is all about knowing to balance a limited resource: time. LIFE is all about deciding what matters, what’s important, what contributes to making you the person you want to be and what you’d do better off without.

Willpower is something we develop. It’s something we have to build up. And I truly do believe that the willpower we develop in cutting our beloved stories to shreds helps us learn to make much more difficult–but much more fruitful–cuts in real life.

I mean things like Facebook games, an old time-suck of mine and a trap I seem to fall into, to escape once, only to start it up again with a different game. I mean things like the time wasted worrying about a bothersome coworker or family member who doesn’t think well of us. I mean things like bad habits.

Tough editing cuts–cutting passages we truly do love and are well written, but don’t contribute–teaches us that we will be okay after losing something we feel we “need.” And that’s an empowering lesson with real life benefits.

4. THE UN-VICIOUS CIRCLE

Hopefully, you find your story inspiring. Especially the characters; they come from you, after all. They are part of you and are indicative of your hopes, your dreams, and what you care about in life.

I find that this is truly beneficial when it comes to editing. This knowledge, and an ability to focus on how my characters inspire me, makes editing feel worth while when editing gets tough. Then the act of editing, and reliving moments when my characters show WHY they inspire me, reinforces the lessons I’ve learned from my characters, and a beautiful cycle is born (until, of course, I’ve done enough editing to move on.)

Victoria Grefer is the author the Herezoth trilogy, which begins with “The Crimson League” and has new editions coming out this Fall. She also has a writer’s handbook out, titled “Writing for You: A Novelist’s Guide to the Craft of Fiction.”

RELATED POSTS

1. Breaking Down Content Edits

2. Considering Flow Edits: What are they? When to do them?

2. What is a Baby-Edit?

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21 responses to “4 Reasons to Keep Going When Editing Gets Tough

  1. I hate to be the editor that I am, but the title of this article says that there are 4 reasons, and in fact there are 4 reasons listed, but the opening sentence suggests that there will be 5 reasons!

    Just sayin’!

  2. Excellent points as usual. I like how my mention that editing can be emotional. I don’t think a lot of people realize this when they’re stating that it’s so easy. Either that or they’re amazingly pragmatic about the whole thing. I still remember people telling me that 70-90% of the first draft will be tossed out, which seems like a terrifyingly high number.

  3. Editing is the icing on the cake, but my god the more I look at the cake the less appetizing it is! I’m encountering my first experiencing of editing. I decided to go with self-publishing for my first novel (that I’m attempting to publish), and it is extremely taxing being my own editor. This article was a good reminder as to why I do it and how to push through the harder moments of doubt.

    Another great article of yours. I’ll mention it in my next blog post. Thank you!

  4. Couldn’t agree more, as usual!

  5. Hi Victoria, love your post as always. I like your point about how you have help – as someone who edits, I see myself as a collaborator who is helping the author to make an even better cake (like a triple-layered chocolate cake…mmmm). It’s very satisfying work!

  6. I hate editing my own work, but I’m learning to get better at it. Editing is very expensive. Thanks for these great tips. As always, you’re awesome!

  7. Hi Victoria;

    “KILL YOUR DARLINGS!” Stephen King declares! And he wrote this in a book ON WRITING. He wasn’t suggesting infanticide. On the other hand, when it comes to specific scenes, it almost feels that way. “BUT THAT’S MY BEST SCENE!!!” You feel like you’ve been told that you have to take a hatchet to grandma for the inheritance money. But you LOVE grandma!

    I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but one of my favorite, and effective ways of self-editing is to take what I’ve written and put it away for…a few months or so, while I work on something else. THEN, after a few months of doing other things has gone by, I can take out what I wrote and look at it with detached eyes. (OUCH. That makes reading difficult!) But seriously, folks, it helps if you can see the work as someone else’s. That way, you can decide that the FAVORITE SCENE was necessary to the story or just a favorite scene.

    However, as you’ve liskly already mentioned elsewhere, before any edition is attempted, get the story down. SPILL YOUR GUTS. THEN Clean it up!

  8. P.S. That last line…. the word should be LIKELY , as in “As you’ve LIKELY already mentioned, elsewhere…”

  9. Pingback: Posts I loved this week | Taylor Grace

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