This current editing process seems to be dragging on somewhat. I know part of that is a busy schedule; I’ve got more on my plate these days than I used to. But I also know part of that is procrastination, and difficulty getting myself into “the zone.”
I don’t know why, but editing seems to be a particularly difficult part of the writing process for me. Not editing my own stuff, I mean going over someone else’s edits of my stuff, listening to criticisms and then figuring out the best solutions in order to make the book the best that it can be. There’s something particularly… vulnerable about it.
From what I’ve heard, this is fairly common for writers, so I’m at least relieved that I’m not alone in my challenges. It’s not easy to take something you’ve poured your heart into, hand it to someone and say “tell me everything that’s wrong with it,” but that’s an important part of the writing process. If the goal is to be able to offer a worthwhile product to your readers, then some constructive criticism is called for.
Despite knowing that, I find it difficult to psych myself up to start an editing session. There’s something about the process of carefully analyzing mistakes for the purpose of improvement that my brain just finds… strenuous and uncomfortable.
There’s also the rather practical fact that spending too much time at once thinking only about mistakes and how to fix them can cause a person to become more critical in their daily life – which I have also found happening with me.
My current strategy?
I give myself permission to take it one step (one page) at a time.
If I find I need to break off for a few minutes after one page, then I do that. If not, I can keep going, but I don’t have to. Sometimes I get through a few pages without even realizing it, before I feel the need for a break. That’s the ideal result, but it doesn’t always happen.
If there are a certain number of pages I have to do in a day, then I set aside a few small blocks of time to get those pages done, as opposed to just one giant block of time where I have to stay editing for that whole few hours or so.
The trick, for myself at least, is just permission to come and go as needed. It’s so easy to get daunted by the number of pages I need to get through, especially with larger novels, and if the sheer volume of work is what’s stressing me about it then what I need is to divide it into bite-sized chunks. It’s about knowing that I’m not forcing myself to stay in that critical mindset for too long, and balancing myself out by doing other things that don’t require critical thinking.
Although it sounds slow, and sometimes it is, I’ve found this makes for a more productive editing process. Sometimes I’ve passed my daily page quota, not by trying to, but just because the process had become that much easier. As long as I take the necessary breaks to balance myself out, I find that one step at a time becomes a lot easier, faster and a more rewarding experience.