I’ve been called a grammar nazi more than once, but traditionally I’ve never actually enjoyed editing. Especially when it comes to my own work. Editing is boring. Editing means trying to fix what has already been done. Editing means that far too many novels wind up in unopened files on a computer or folders in a drawer, filled with potential but unfit to be seen by anyone. But it doesn’t have to be that way! I was working on my NaNoWriMo novel earlier today, and I was enjoying it so much that it was hard to stop when I reached the end of my editing quota. It was a refreshing and revitalizing experience–and it was making my story a whole lot better. How did I transform the drab to the delightful? It’s a combination of several things. Here are a few:
1. Remember your first love. That one night that you stayed up to three in the morning because the scene you were writing was so epic. The sudden idea you had that changed everything. The magic of writing. You’re still in the same novel. You’re still working with the same characters and ideas. Remember the passion that you felt when writing and allow yourself to re-live some of it in the editing. It works.
2. Reward yourself. Give yourself a certain number of chapters or pages to edit in a sitting. When you’re done, treat yourself to a nice snack or Facebook binge. You can decide whether it works better for you to have one big reward at the end of the day or a bunch of little ones sprinkled around, or maybe both. Either way, you’ve earned it.
3. Enrich your atmosphere. What does it take to make you comfortable? A pillow fort with marshmallows and hot chocolate? A couch you can sprawl out on? Bunny slippers? Don’t be afraid if you have to be a bit ridiculous. Some of my best writing experiences have been in pillow forts. If something makes the experience more fun for you, then do it.
4. Music, music, music! I’ve brought up the importance of a good writing soundtrack before, and it’s one of the best ways to enhance your editing sessions. Good writing music should invigorate and energize you, help you to focus, and let you see your novel in a new light that can open your eyes to new potential strengths and weaknesses.
5. Don’t overwhelm yourself. I divided my scenes into several different categories before editing my NaNoWriMo book. The first were the five most important scenes, the crucial turning points that make up the heart of the novel. The next were the five second-most important scenes, scenes that I can’t do without. Then I took aside all of the transitional and world-building scenes that help the novel, but aren’t necessary vital. In the end I was able to look at the scummy scenes that didn’t serve any purpose and dispose of them the ways I saw fit. It gave me freedom to know that I wasn’t cutting anything vital and that I can know with confidence just how seriously I need to edit different parts of the novel.
Editing doesn’t need to be a chore. There are plenty of hacks that can make it more fun and relaxing–and remember, once you’ve started putting together a new draft, it will be much easier to complete it. It can and should be a time of bonding between you and your novel as you prepare it to go out into the world and shine just like you know it can.
What are your tips for making the editing process a more tolerable (or even fun?) experience? Please comment below and share them. I’d love to know!