I realize that my timing isn’t perfect for this post. At least, not for all of those WU-ers who are participating in NaNo this year– which after all is largely an exercise in letting your creativity and your story flow by NOT thinking about editing. But it’s been several years since NaNoWriMo fit into my writing schedule, and since for me this month happens to be largely devoted to edits, I wanted to share some of the things I’ve been thinking about the process. If you’re in the process of an edit, maybe some of my strategies will work for you, too. And if you’re NaNO-ing, maybe it will come in handy once the month is over and you’ve (hopefully) got a solid part of your first draft down. So, my editing do’s and don’ts:
DO: Give yourself some time between finishing a draft of your story and picking it back up to edit. I’d say at an absolute bare minimum a week, but more time is probably even better. The distance will help you to see your story with fresh eyes during the editing process, which is vital to figuring out what weak spots need to be strengthened, what character arcs need to change, etc.
Don’t: Be afraid of the process. I actually love editing– once I get started. But when I first open up a book file with an editorial eye, I usually have a moment of near panic: Oh no! What if I read it and it’s absolutely terrible! That’s when I just have to remind myself to breathe and dive in. Messy first drafts can always be made better– that’s the point of an edit after all. And if your book was truly, irredeemably bad, it’s unlikely you would have managed to finish it to the point of having a draft to edit. So take heart and just click open the file. You’ll probably be pleasantly surprised when the draft you thought was in shambles isn’t nearly as messy as you feared.