I’ve been editing the second book of the Split Worlds series for the last month and to be honest, I feel a little ragged. I always get horribly miserable when editing and thought it might be a good idea to write it all out instead of letting it fester. I want to salvage something other than an improved manuscript from the experience.
Lies, damn lies
The Crazy always gets strong when I’m editing. Nah, who am I kidding; I’m always managing the Crazy. It just gets particularly loud in this stage of a book’s evolution. Here’s the two thoughts it most frequently produces:
“This book is a steaming pile of excrement that would do more good spread over a local field.”
Ah, that one comes up again and again. I’m sure all writers believe this at some point.
“My agent / publisher / grandmother / every book reviewer * will hate this book.”
* any of these and others appeared at one point
Sometimes it’s just that worrisome thought, sometimes it’s a scene played out in my head like a film. My anxiety demons have a huge special effects budget. Gits.
I’ve been living with anxiety long enough to be able to know that thinking something is true does not mean that thing is true.
As for whether my book is good, bad or steaming and stinky there is only one thing for me to remember: I cannot really know at this stage. All I can do is tell the story that needs to come out in the best way that I can. That’s why I have my agent Jen (thank goodness!) and all the other people between the book leaving my brain and ending up in the hands of the book-buying public. Agents and editors are able to see what works and what doesn’t better than I can right now.
The other reason editing gets me down is that I spend hours every day finding errors and things I could have done better. My perfectionist streak flares up worse than asthma on a damp October morning and before I realise what’s happened my mood has plummeted. Someone on Twitter (sorry, I can’t remember who) was talking about how they love editing because they can see their book getting better. Alas, if only I could focus so well on the positive; for me, editing is a close examination of all of the things I’ve screwed up.
The mental game
The Olympics are on at the time of writing this and I’ve heard a lot of people talk about the importance of the mind when competing in sport. I’m as sporty as a broken teapot so I can’t really speak from extensive sporting experience but editing this latest book has given me a new appreciation of the importance of managing one’s mind in the writing life. During this latest edit I’ve been grumpy, I’ve lost faith in myself and I’ve believed – really believed – that I’m going to fail. But none of it is real. The only thing that really exists is the steady forwards progress, day after day, chapter after chapter until finally I reach the end and send it off to the robot overlords.
I’ve come to realise that the separation of mood and editing is just as important as the separation of mood and writing. That’s something I’m going to hang onto when I plunge into the next round of edits. That, and a large cup of tea.
Does any of this sound familiar or are you one of those lucky souls who can breeze through edits without having to wrestle demons on the way? Any advice on how to stay sane?