Editors in the Closet

Most writers don’t like editing.

With very few exceptions, most of us fear edits, dread edits, and complain about edits. Sometimes, we fear the edits enough that it affects the way we write.

But why? Why is editing so universally hated? A few reasons come to mind.

1. We are impatient creatures, wanting the payoff for all our hard work sooner rather than later.

2. Editing a novel is a daunting task.  It’s big and needs several passes to even get it ready to submit.

3. When we edit, we are acknowledging our mistakes and trying to fix them.

4. We fear the opinions of others.

What’s that last one got to do with anything? Its’s why we’re all so nervicited (It’s like you wanna jump up and down and yell “YAY ME!!” But you also wanna curl up in a teeny-tiny ball and hide at the same time!) about getting critiques. You want your CPs to like this thing you did, but you know that they’re going to find something wrong with it and IT’S THE BEST THING EVER! OH MY GOLLUM HOW DID I MISS THAT!!!?!?!?!

You don’t want people to think less of you because of the plot holes you missed. Because you said half an hour in the first paragraph and one hour in the next. Because yeah, that was a contrivance, wasn’t it?

Alphas, betas, and CPs… their job is to find the bugs. They expect bugs.

And that brings me to my fifth point.

5. You’re scared of messing up a second time.

You already messed up once with draft one. You thought you fixed it.

Feedback or your own instinct reveals that you didn’t. Can I just say “Ouch?”

So, you’re scared of editing. Scared enough that it’s affecting how you write. You can’t write freely; it’s painful. Writing is losing it’s allure. What do you do?

You have to change your perspective.

First, take a deep breath. Inhale blue skies, exhale the grey ones. Calm-ish? Good. Read on, Lizzie.

Let’s dismantle each of the reasons listed for fearing editing.

1. We are impatient creatures wanting the payoff for all our hard work sooner rather than later.

2. Editing a novel is a daunting task.  It’s big and needs several passes to even get it ready to submit.

These two go hand in hand. For me, these are true because I want to be an author full-time and I’ve been writing for 10 years, but I haven’t been published or anything like that yet. It feels like I’m running out of time before I have to find some other way to make a living. (Side note: No, I am not writing for the money. I write because I love to write. But it’d be nice to get paid for it, you know? Getting paid for something I love.)

So, how do you fight this one?

Unless you are on deadline, you have all the time in the world. There is no rush. Take a breath. And even if you are on a deadline, you still have a little bit of time.

3. When we edit, we are acknowledging our mistakes and trying to fix them.

And oh! what terrible mistakes we make! But realizing you have a problem is halfway to fixing it, right?

How do we fight this?

Perspective. Do not look for mistakes. Look for places to improve.

4. We fear the opinions of others.

This one is possibly my worst enemy.

How do we fight this?

Your betas expect bugs. You asked them to help you find the bugs. And they are not going to think less of you because you missed something obvious or because your draft isn’t perfect.

And no one else’s opinion matters. (Except, you know, that of an agent or editor. Those matter.)

5. You’re scared of messing up a second time.

We should just change this…

5. You’re scared of messing up.

It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve been through it.

How do you fight scared of messing up? How do you fight back so that you can write freely when all your instincts are vying for your attention, telling you not to forget that plot point, that twist, and make it blue while your POV is frustrated?

You know what it is that’s telling you to do that? That is your internal editor.

Now, you and your internal editor should be friends or at least, very good acquaintances. But sometimes, your internal editor wants perfection and you… well, you want it, too, but that internal editor is nagging and making you feel like a general failure.

When you find yourself freezing up, what do you do?

Envision your internal editor. Got him/her? Good. Now lock them in a metaphorical closet.

Can’t bear to lock them up? Then tell them you can’t play right now, because you have homework. Or have them doing a puzzle or knitting in the corner. The idea is to distance yourself from the internal editor.

When you are done with your writing session, let the internal editor out. If you keep them perpetually in the closet, locking them up will lose it’s power.

Ultimately, there’s something all of us should remember as writers. No story is perfect. No story has to be perfect. No author is perfect.

I think it’s better to be okay with a few “mistakes” than to drive ourselves insane trying to get the book perfect.

I’m not saying don’t do your best. I’m not saying don’t strive for perfection, even.

I’m saying don’t stress about it.

Remember, editing is not fixing mistakes. Editing is making sure the structure of the house is sound, adding a bathroom sink, moving a couch in, and painting the bedroom. Editing is taking this fixer-upper and making it into a home. Or a hotel. Or a brilliant haunted castle that is not in disrepair. You get the idea. Editing is giving yourself another chance to put exactly what you have in your mind into the mind of the reader.

And when all else fails…

Mary and Lizzie, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries [gif] (Briana Cuoco and Ashley Clements)


Don’t forget to be awesome. That awesomeness will naturally leak into your writing.


23 thoughts on “Editors in the Closet

  1. Whoooops. I forgot to tell Caroline she could stop babysitting last night. *waves sheepishly* Sorry, Caroline, you can come back now.

    *applauds* Lovely post, by the way. *adds this to the “writing related” bookmarks folder*

  2. Nervicited has to be a word now, because that perfectly describes what I feel when I edit. I was so scared when I first started to edit the novel I’m editing now because I had never edited a novel before, and it was just really scary. However, some writing buddies asked if I wanted to do JaNoEdiMo, and I said yes to motivate myself to edit. Once I started editing, my excitement for the story was rekindled. Now I think I have to do a major and LITERAL REWRITE of the whole novel for my third draft because most of my plot is changing. It’s daunting, but I also know it’s for the better, and I’ve actually grown to love editing. Good luck with your WIP!

    • I actually didn’t come up with “nervicited”. It’s from My Little Pony.

      Yes! I believe editing can be enjoyed. Which is good because the majority of what writers do to one story is editing.

      Ooh. Good luck to you, too!

  3. Ahhh, I think that second one is the one I’m struggling the most with. I have so much editing I already know I need to do (and I haven’t even let somebody read this monster yet), I’m kind of procrastinating from it simply because of the size.

    As soon as I give this to beta readers, though, I think I’m definitely going to struggle with being afraid of everybody’s opinions. Note to future self: don’t try to justify all of the mistakes. Just don’t.

    Anyway, great post!

    • Thanks. 🙂

      The best thing is not to justify any mistakes. Most of the time, that’s a clear indication that something wasn’t explained correctly or executed effectively. Look at why you’re trying to defend it. If it’s supposed to be confusing, don’t do anything, you’ve succeeded. But chances are good that it is something that the reader just doesn’t understand and it’s your job to make sure they understand.
      Also, it’s a good idea to get feedback from multiple betas. Because one doesn’t understand doesn’t mean they all don’t understand. If they ALL don’t get it, then yes, fix it.

  4. Thank you so much for this! I hate editing and once I’ve finished my first draft I’m working on, I’m heading straight into it and the novel I need to edit has a lot of work needing to it. I feel like I’ll never get anywhere with it, but I also feel like it can turn into something amazing.
    Great words. I’m bookmarking this post for every time I feel down:)

  5. Love this post! Makes editing seem completely doable! And also gives me a way to get Bob the editor out of the way for a while. I’ll have to keep this in mind for when Camp NaNo is over…

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