This week we are going through the physical proof copy of A Light from the Ashes with a fine tooth comb and a purple pen. It is a strange fact that there are things you can catch in a print copy that you can’t catch in an electronic copy. It is surprising to think that after I’ve gone through many rounds of edits on my own and with beta readers there are still pieces of my novel which could be changed or improved, but it is true.
So, I thought I would throw out a few suggestions on how to make the editing process less painful.
1. Surround yourself with positive, comforting things.
It’s easy to get caught up in all the problems or mistakes you see in your own writing, and before long you are beating up on yourself and wondering why you ever tried to become a writer. One way to combat this phenomenon is to soothe your nerves with your favorite things. For me today that means a cup of coffee in my favorite mug, and the Anne of Avonlea miniseries in the background. Anne is one of the most positive characters in literature, and she always makes me feel better about life. Beyond that, she too was a writer, and I’m sure could feel my pain about the editing process.
Sometimes I write and edit in the outdoors at my favorite park. Sometimes I feel better at the desk in my library. Sometimes I’m huddled on the couch with a fuzzy blanket. Go wherever you feel the most comfortable and uplifted.
2. Don’t always edit in red.
I have found that red marks all over my written text tends to have a negative emotional effect on me. The red ink somehow feels like a personal affront. So, in my own writing, and even on my students’ papers, I use purple pens for comments and editing marks. I don’t have the same visceral reaction to the color purple. So find a pen in your favorite color and go at it.
3. Change the recording in your head.
I get it: this is your baby. You’ve spent countless hours planning, creating, and crying over your work. The last thing you want to do is cover it in editing marks and corrections. Suddenly the demon of your inner critic comes to life shouting criticisms, insults, and jabs in your brain. “Why did I ever think I was a writer? No one is every going to read my story. This is the worst thing I’ve ever read.”
Let me suggest that you muzzle that demon and change the recording that plays in your head. Instead of corrections or criticisms, think of editing as just improving the great writing that is already there. You have already done some of the hardest work. You have written a story (or an article, or a book, or whatever). You’ve gone further than you thought you could already. You have gained the strength and insight to face down the editing process. So, be kind to yourself. Insults and attacks on your self-esteem will not help you be a better writer.