Writers commonly associate feeling overwhelmed and unsure with self-editing. Today, I want to share 7 things you can do to beat that self-doubt and grow your self-confidence. Trust me, it’ll make the process a lot more fun!
#1 – Know your why
When you lose track of why you’re doing something, motivation and confidence become elusive. So in order to find that self-confidence and feel in control of the self-editing process, make sure you know why you want to self-edit your book.
While your initial answer may be something practical like ‘I can’t afford a professional editor’, I challenge you to think beyond that.
There are plenty of empowering reasons why it’s a good idea to self-edit your manuscript, like the feeling of being in full control. The realisation that you can do a lot more than you thought. Self-development and self-improvement, both as a writer and as a person.
Getting the why ingrained in your head will make you feel powerful, on your way to achieving a big, important goal in your life rather than just ‘editing because you have to’.
#2 – Do your research
A lot of the time, overwhelm, insecurity and self-doubt are a consequence of lack of information. There are many myths and misconceptions when it comes to editing, and a little research will help you move beyond those biases.
Additional research on self-publishing versus traditional publishing or hiring a professional editor, for example, will empower you by making very clear what each next step in the process will be.
Knowing what the next step will be every step along the way can be extremely empowering, making you feel in control, focused and productive.
#3 – Ask for help
Know that you are not alone, and that asking for help does not make you a terrible writer.
There’s a big difference between asking someone to edit your story for you without even touching it yourself (which I wouldn’t recommend), and asking someone to help you move forward when you’re stuck.
If you’re not great at finding or fixing plot holes, talk with someone who’s good at it.
If you know you’re not great at spelling or grammar, use editing tools or ask someone who’s a natural at spotting language mistakes.
Acknowledging your weaknesses does not make you weak. In fact, in my book, it makes you incredibly strong.
Asking for help shows that you care, that you want to get the best results possible.
Plus, chances are that you’ll learn something in the process of getting help, meaning you’ll need a little less help in the future. It’ll allow you to grow as a writer and as a person.
#4 – Join a community
Online writing communities are a great place to find help and support on your editing journey.
A community like Under the Willow, my free writer's group on Mighty Networks, is a safe space to share both the wins and the struggles of self-editing. It’s a place for support, encouragement and accountability, no strings attached. A place to look for help when you can’t seem to fix a plot hole, or when you’re looking for beta readers. A place to offer support and encouragement to others, to cheer them on.
Alongside a social media community like Under the Willow, I’d recommend checking out online writing communities like Scribophile that focus on critiques. By critiquing other people’s writing, you learn how embrace your inner editor when looking at your own writing as well. Reading other people’s critiques is extremely helpful as well.
Scribophile works with a karma system, where you get karma points for critiquing the work of other writers. You can then use the karma points to post your own writing and get critiques from other members. Many members are editors or professional writers, meaning the quality of the feedback is usually quite high.
#5 – Stand your ground when engaging with others
When you know your characters and your world inside-out and you have a conversation with someone about your book, it’ll be easier to hold on to your own ideas.
A friend of mine once told me that she doesn’t like to talk about her writing with other people, because she’s afraid that if they come up with ideas and she wants to use them, it’ll no longer be her own story.
No matter how many ideas other people offer, you’re still the writer.
My husband also writes, and is someone who tends to take an idea and run away with it, in the sense that he’ll come up with something he would write, rather than something I would write. However, conversations with him are usually really helpful because they allow me to think out of my own box.
Often, my reaction will be “Nah, she wouldn’t do that…” or “That doesn’t make sense with what I have in mind…” But sometimes something he says will spark an idea in the back of my mind that will challenge what I initially thought in a good way.
When I started the novel that’s been my WIP for years now, I was determined that there would be no violence and no deaths. Conversations with my boyfriend have led me to seeing that some deaths would actually make sense in my story, and make it a lot more powerful. This doesn’t mean that the changes I’m making are his ideas, it just means that his ideas sparked new ideas in my mind.
Long story short: When you know what you want to achieve, and you have a good grip on your characters and your world, you don’t have to be afraid of other people running away with your ideas or taking over.
You’ll know what would and wouldn’t work, and you can take your pick of suggestions that help you, and ignore or discard suggestions that just don’t make sense for you and your story.
#6 – Set yourself up for success
A sure way to lose confidence is to set goals you would like to achieve, but that are not realistic.
Imagine you’re about to start the self-editing process. You don't know how long editing a chapter will take, but ‘a chapter a day’ sounds cool, and you feel you should be able to do that, because you’ve heard other people set those kinds of goals.
When you edit, it turns out one chapter takes a lot more time than you thought, and there’s no way you’ll be able to do a chapter a day.
Bye-bye confidence, and bye-bye motivation.
Instead, I recommend starting out with a goal that may sound ridiculously small, but that you are sure you can achieve.
‘Edit for 30 minutes’, for example.
Keep expectations low, and only adjust the goal once you’re absolutely confident you’ll be able to keep it up.
A page a day, a page a week, 30 minutes every day, an hour every week… Play around a little and figure out what works for you.
#7 – Celebrate your successes
Setting yourself up for success is one thing, but actually celebrating that success is crucial to building confidence and associating self-editing with happy, positive thoughts that allow you to grow.
To make sure you actually take a moment to celebrate each step along the way, take a moment to figure out how you’re going to celebrate before getting started.
What will you do after each small step (every day if you set a daily goal, every week if you set a weekly goal…)? What will you do after a streak (7 days for a daily goal, 4 weeks for a weekly goal, for example)?
Make sure the celebration is in line with how big the achievement is, and that the celebration is something that won’t make you feel bad in the long run (like eating an entire cake).