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Generally speaking (based on my experience around the internet), writing tends to be described in positive terms. Fun, challenging, inspiring, a way to be creative, a way to express yourself…
Editing, on the other hand, tends to be put in a much darker light. Many writers consider it a daunting, nerve-wracking prospect that’s overwhelming and usually considered a boring chore.
With no idea of where to begin or how to approach self-editing, the process becomes overwhelming, accompanied by growing dread and anxiety.
Why can’t editing just be fun, like writing?
Well, maybe it can be…
Below, you’ll find 7 ways to (re)discover the fun in self-editing!
#1 – See self-editing as just another part of the writing process
If you consider the difference between writing and editing as big as, say, photography and painting, it’s understandable that you’d feel inadequate when confronted with editing. You’re a writer, after all, not a professional editor.
While writing and editing require different brain processes and should therefore be separated in the sense that you shouldn’t write and edit at the same time, they’re still both part of the same process: creating a book.
Because when you’re a writer, writing is not the only thing you do. You come up with the ideas, you write them down, you structure them into a story arc, you revise what you’ve written… it’s all part of making that book reality.
Editing is part of writing a book.
And there’s actually a lot of writing and rewriting involved in self-editing.
You look for plot holes, and in order to fix them, you need to come up with new ideas, just like you did in the first draft.
You need to write new material when it turns out a scene should be added.
For the first draft, you already did a little character development. Self-editing takes it to the next level.
Compare it to a holiday trip, if you will. Writing the first draft is like doing the preliminary research about the country you’re going to and how to get there. Once you arrive there, it’s like you’ve written the first draft.
But that’s nowhere near the end of the holiday! In fact, most of the fun stuff is yet to come.
When something turns out differently than you’d thought based on your initial research, you adapt: you self-edit, you rewrite. You do a little more research to find a nice place to eat near your hotel, you discover there’s a beach nearby and adjust your plan according to that…
Self-editing is nothing more and nothing less than that. You’re not expected to do anything you’re unable to do: You wrote that first draft, didn’t you? That means you can write other drafts as well.
#2 – Get to know your limits
You don’t have to be good at everything, and you don’t have to follow a routine you feel others consider the best.
To have fun and find satisfaction in the self-editing process, it’s important to listen closely to yourself and to find out what feels good for you, regardless of others.
Don’t consider your limits as a sign of what you can’t do, but rather as a way of finding out what you can do.
Instead of forcing yourself to edit a chapter a day when that doesn’t feel right, try doing a chapter every week, or every two weeks. Or change things around and set the goal at a time limit. Edit for half an hour every day, for instance.
What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another, and what works in one situation may not work in another.
For example, I’ll happily edit a chapter a day for a client. When it comes to self-editing my own WIP, however, that wouldn’t work for me. I prefer to work with timeframes rather than chapter or page goals when it comes to my own writing.
To get to know you limits, make a point of listening to yourself. Do you feel negatively towards editing? That may be a sign that you’re crossing your limits without realising it.
Journaling regularly and/or practicing mindfulness can be a great way of becoming (more) aware of any limits you’re currently crossing, causing anxiety or frustration.
#3 – Adjust accordingly
When you’ve identified these limits, make sure to adjust your routines and goals to make sure you stay within them.
While it may sound like staying within your boundaries will limit what you’re able to do, I believe the opposite is true. Let me illustrate this with an example.
If you set a goal of editing every single day, but that goals makes you feel anxious and causes you to dread the moment you have to start, it won’t make you very productive. And if you do sit down and do it, the results will likely be of lower quality than if you were working with a positive mindset, enjoying the moment.
If instead, you set a goal of editing once a week, it may sound like you’d get less done because you’re setting aside less time. In reality, you’re more likely to be productive during that one day if that’s what feels good for you. The quality of your work will also be better if you feel like you’re crushing your goals.
The best way to find out what works for you in this respect is simply to try things out. Does the idea of editing every day freak you out? Then don’t do it.
Instead, consider how every other day sounds. Still nervous? How about every week? And so on, until you find a frequence that sounds doable.
Set yourself up for success, and give yourself all the time you need.
#4 – Examine and overcome fear of failure
Fear of failure and feeling inadequate is very common among writers. Even professional ones who make a living from their books.
So first of all, know that you are not alone. And know that these feelings are in no way a reflection of the quality of your work.
Second of all, the way I see self-editing is an opportunity to make your book the very best you can make it, with the resources and the skills that you have. Nothing more than that.
Self-editing is not meant as a replacement of professional editing. It’s meant as a way to develop your story, to get to know your characters and your world inside out, and to allow you, the writer, to be in complete control of everything that goes on inside it.
Self-editing is preparation for professional editing, be it by an editor you’ll hire yourself (if you decide to self-publish) or by an editor at a publishing house (if you wat to get published via the traditional route).
So don’t feel like your editing skills need to be the same as those of a professional editor. And know that even professional editors will need a professional editor after they’ve self-edited their own work, because they simply don’t have the distance necessary to spot certain things.
Part of overcoming fear of failure is in line with the previous points: know what your limits are, and make sure to get the tools to overcome those.
If you’re not good at spelling and grammar, it doesn’t mean you’re unable to self-edit. It just means you’ll need a little help. Asking for help with things you know you’re not great at yourself is not a weakness, it’s a strength. And it’s a strength many people lack.
You’re the writer, so you’re in control. That does not mean you have to be able to do everything on your own.
Free writing communities are great places to turn to for help every step along the way, from issues with fixing plot holes and structure to spelling and grammar.
#5 – Find something to look forward to in each step
Let’s go back to the holiday metaphor for this point. When you go on holiday for two weeks, imagine looking forward to the first two days and to the last two days. In between, you feel there’s nothing really exciting.
That’s not much of a holiday, is it?
Instead, you make sure every day has at least something fun to look forward to, so the enjoyment is spread out over the two weeks, rather than only the beginning and the end.
Only enjoying the beginning and the end is often what I see happening when it comes to the writing process, however.
You’re excited about the first part: writing the first draft. You then look forward to having a manuscript that’s ready to be published.
What about all the steps in between?
If you take a moment to look at what’s happening, I’m sure you’ll be able to come up with many, many steps along the way that you’d enjoy.
Character development, world-building, fixing plot holes, coming up with new scenes, rearranging existing scenes so they all fit together nicely… The list goes on and on. Not everyone enjoys the same aspects of each step along the way, but each step is composed of different elements, so make sure to focus on the elements that excite you most.
That way, you have many different things to look forward to rather than feeling like the entire self-editing process is just a huge, ugly roadblock keeping you from reaching the end of the line.
Again: set yourself up for success!
#6 – Celebrate even the smallest successes
Talking about success… make sure to celebrate your successes! Even the teeny-tiny ones like coming up with a title for your book.
Seriously, no success is too small.
Make a point of looking for something you can be proud of after each editing session.
Say it out loud, share it on social media (mention @willowediting on Instagram so I can see your post if you do!), do a little dance, sing your favourite song, get yourself a cupcake, paint a rainbow… come up with something to really get into celebration mode.
It may not seem like much, but I promise you that it will make all the difference when it comes to having fun while self-editing.
You are in control.
What are your favourite parts of the self-editing process? What do you look forward to each step along the way? Do you have more tips on having fun while self-editing? Share it all in the comments below!
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