Overcoming the Editing Monster (Me)

A bit less than two years ago, I wrote my first young adults’ novel. It was August/September in 2011 when I took the time to do this.

The wintery days were becoming filled with pollen and my heart, mind and fingers were full of my book. I had just finished up a marketing contract and viewed the “in between jobs” period as the perfect time to get the story out.

Well, the story ended up coming out. I set the time aside for it, went into a creative hermit state and literally, it consumed most of me.

I wrote every day apart from Sunday, and my hands ached. Thousands of words being poured out each day as countless coffees were also – not coincidentally – poured out.

I wrote, wrote and wrote and received such support from those around me.

I even had a then illustrator friend – now soon to become my husband! – draw my book’s main character for me off a description I had told him. It could have been that moment – when I saw my book’s character immortalised in an iPhone picture attachment – that Cupid’s arrow shot through my heart! But that’s a story for later.

And it was with my heart that I used to write my first draft. My plan was: write with my heart, edit with my head.

A very good plan, it seemed, because I did well with all the ‘heart’ part. The words came gushing through – around the 107,000 mark to be exact – and the book was written! Pop the champagne!

Yet, before I could even make plans to deal with nervousness on how to speak at writers’ festivals circuits, I had one thing left to do.


That was almost two years ago and I still haven’t finished the job.

There are many reasons I could tell you why this hasn’t been done yet but probably none of them as valid as the simple, four letter word of this. Fear.

Fear of your own manuscript. Are there any other writers out there who can relate?

“Write your first draft with your heart, edit with your head,” or something like that. That was the quote I had plastered in my book of “inspiring quotes” and that, darn it, was the method I had used.

Initially, I had took this on board and started to edit my work in a ruthless, “let’s get on with this” kind of way. Lengthy chunks of my manuscript was slashed, a blue texta (because red is too conventional) was scrawled all over my hard copy edit. I was editing like I was a underpaid, university lecturer, marking work before a morning coffee. I was way too harsh, overly critical and the casualty was not initially apparent: my story.
Ironically, my quest of editing efficiency was actually killing the essence of my story – the very thing I had strove so hard to do. My heavy-handed editing approach wasn’t in the same spirit of what led me to write my story.

So, almost two years later – which brings me to the present – I have decided on a new approach to editing. It’s something different, something kinder and certainly more respectful of the actual story itself.

I have ignored all previous editing efforts and began the process again. This time I am editing and rereading and refining like I am editing the work of a good friend: encouraging, professional and true to the very nature of the story. I have taken off my “Critical hat” and have put on a “Friend’s” hat. My goal now is to bring the story up to a publishable quality. I am giving myself a month.

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