Editing Hell

That’s what I have taken to calling it, recently. Somewhat affectionately, I suppose.

This is my first time doing actual, true editing. Not re-writing. Not re-outlining. Not revising. Actual, gorram editing. The kind where you g— Well, I should clarify. It is the first editing I’m doing on a novel. Any novel. I’ve edited my short stories (obviously) but not Rat.

So, yeah, I’m editing Rat.

December and the first half of this month, I would open the document and start reading, going line-by-line, keeping a notepad open for taking notes and for reading the notes I’d already made to remind myself about continuity, what I wanted to inject, themes, what ever… I managed to get 10 chapters in, including writing a whole new chapter that was necessary for structure.

Sweet Zeus, that process was rough. Never have I felt so confronted with my own imposter syndrome, self loathing, and insecurities than I have while editing. Everything from the micro to the macro level felt terrible and any fix I applied didn’t seem to help. I felt myself falling into the page and drowning in my own inadequacy as I waded through the muck that is my current draft.

Yeah, I’m likely being over-dramatic, but I’m a writer, what did you expect?

No, I’m not giving up. Obviously. That would be madness. But I’m here venting about my process, spewing my melodrama all over this blog in the hopes that someone, somewhere going through the same will read this and realize it happens to everyone. Because it does. I don’t think I’m going through anything special. I know I’m not. I’m surrounded by writers and critique partners and friends who all know what I’m going through. But maybe you aren’t. In fact, a lot of you aren’t. I’m lucky enough to have a great writing group and support network. Lucky. I know not everyone has that. Hell, that’s part of the whole reason The Genre Hustle exists. There are people out there whose only contact with the writing world may just be Twitter!

So if you’re reading this, and you’re stuck in editing hell and don’t have anyone around you that you can talk to, let me talk to you. Let me talk about what I’m doing next, how I’m motivating myself, and we will get through this.

First, I printed my manuscript out. I saved it in Google Docs, made the size font 10 (or maybe 9?), changed it to something thin and different than times/arial/courier so that my eyes aren’t used to reading it, and then I sent it to Fedex Office to print. It cost me about $24. I’m in a position where I can afford to do that, but only just barely. I really had to think about my budget before spending that and I’m sure there are others out there in the same or worse positions. In the long run, $24 is an investment in myself and it is worth it. I hope you think you’re worth it, too.

Second, with the manuscript printed, I told myself I needed to read through it completely before getting into changes. Sure, I’ve got a pen and notebook in hand for notes and marking it up, but I need to read the whole thing all the way through. Yes, it’s going to take longer that way, but it needs to be in my head again. If I keep going over the first several chapters over and over, changing them each time, I’ll have lost the thread and won’t ever get to the end. Trust me. Read through it with a critical eye, but read all the way through it.

Third, really mark it up. With what’s in your head and your notebook, start noting real changes. It’s less about grammar and spelling and more about structure, characters, action, drama, voice, description… those medium to large sized things that make up your work. Chapter order. Point of view. Don’t worry about all those adverbs and repetitive adjectives right now. Focus on whether or not your main character is hitting all the notes you need. Focus on the tension of a scene. Focus on dialogue. And when you’re at the end, go back and start making changes based on your notes. Now’s the time for the typing.

Lastly, re-read for the nitty gritty. Remove filtering. Remove those -ly words. Avoid repetition. Delete all those “no” words (I’ll talk about those in another blog post, probably, when I’m at this step). It’s like sharpening a knife. Rougher grain to start, finer at the end.

And then… well, shit, you know. You do it all over again. Or get betas. Or a professional edit. Let’s not focus on that yet, hm? And yeah, I know, this is just my way of editing. New way. What ever. There are probably other ways out there, but this is my plan and this is how I’m going to get my edit done.

And maybe it’s how you’re going to get yours done, too.

Come on, we got this.

A.P. ThayerComment