the many wonders and woes of self-editing


The name of my game has been editing lately. We’re talking long nights, sacrificed sleep, crossed eyes. The whole, glorious lot.

I’m not talking about editing others’ work. That’s a breeze. A breath of fresh air. A completely different ballgame. I’m talking about self-editing the same lines I’ve read over and over again, forcing myself to look at them with fresh insight, from an unbiased lens.

If it sounds intense to you that’s because it is. I’m trying to teach myself discipline, and in the process, I’ve given myself a tiny taste of what it’s like to be on deadline. {Someday I’ll look back on this post and laugh…}

The good news is, while I’ve worked on this kind of schedule before, I’ve never had this kind of happiness and fulfillment. This is fun as a whole. But like most things, it has its stages…

Checklist. Check.
Red pen. Check.
Throwing my bias out the window … Check?

Maybe the second chapter would be a better first chapter. (Cringe.) Axed.
I’m never pantsing a story again. Ever.
Will I have anything left by the time I’m finished with this?
Is this really as good as it sounds in my mind?

I wrote that? That’s actually kind of funny!
Epiphany! That’s just what this scene needed.
These characters can do no wrong!

Is this screen moving? Are these letters supposed to look purple?
*Face-first in the keyboard* How long have I been asleep?
What did I change while I was asleep!?

I have a lot to be proud of with this manuscript.
There’s nothing more I can do to it this round. (Famous last words)
After some serious prayer, I’m ready to press send.

Look at these like ingredients in a recipe. It isn’t like baking cookies where, when you combine the proper proportions of butter, sugar, and flour, it’s predictably fool-proof. You blend these ingredients together and repeat, never sure what you’ll get and when you’ll get it.

If you’re not a writer, you might not understand why someone would choose to do this willingly. But if you’re an author, you get it. Because hopefully at the end, this manuscript medicine has delivered that Finality, a polished product you should be proud of.

Go ahead and make the cookies too. You deserve it.

Here are some helpful resources I wish I’d found much earlier in the process:

This editing checklist from the Writer’s Cafe. It’s pretty extensive!

Read>Play>Edit: The blog of writer and developmental editor Jamie Clarke Chavez. She’s worked with some of my favorite writers and really knows her stuff. Her blog shares this sage advice and makes me realize how much I have to learn!

Pretty much everything YA author Janice Hardy tweets. I have so many bookmarks of articles she’s shared. Her blog also looks really informative with a great content map in the left sidebar. But to be honest, it’s still on my list of things to check out when I can give it the full attention it deserves.

Professional editor Amanda Bumgarner’s blog. I used to work with Amanda, and she has a lot of great insights and grammar tips to offer. I’m excited that she’s recently taken her editing show on the wild and crazy road of freelancing.

What are your tried and true ingredients and resources for editing survival?

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  • Thanks, Laurie, for sharing your thoughts and advice. I’m deep into editing at the moment, with still two thirds of my book to do, and am encouraged by reading your post.