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The Write Question is a weekly video podcast all about writing. Today’s question? How can you maintain your enthusiasm for editing? If you have a question you’d like me to answer you can email me, tweet me @pubcoach, or leave a message for me at the Skype account, The Write Question.
How can you maintain your enthusiasm for editing? That’s the topic I’m addressing today in The Write Question. I’m Daphne Gray-Grant, the Publication Coach.
I have a question from Wanda Dionne, a writer based in The Woodlands, Texas. Here’s what she’s asked by email…
“I asked a friend who is a published author to critique my manuscript. He made a number of valid suggestions that will require re-writing. So, I am re-writing and editing at the same time, but I’m finding it hard to do. It’s like the bloom has left the rose, if you know what I mean. What can you suggest?”
Thanks for the question, Wanda. It sounds to me like you’re suffering from what some writers call ‘the murky middle.’
I know. You’ve already finished your first draft so how could I think you’re in the middle of it? But the murky middle doesn’t just occur at the 50% point.
Instead, it takes place when you feel unspeakably tired. Overwhelmed. Fed up. Desperate to do something else.
In fact, many of the symptoms are similar to burnout. In the show-notes below, I provide a link to a post I’ve done on that topic. You’ll notice that many of my suggestions relate to life rather than to writing, but adopting them will also help you finish your book.
With respect to editing and rewriting, I have one other specific suggestion for you. Remember that these are two very different jobs and they require you to use different parts of your brain.
When you’re editing, you want to use the linear-logical brain — the one that judges and evaluates — but when you’re writing or rewriting, you want to use the creative part.
It’s extremely difficult to switch between these parts of the brain and, in western society, it’s common for us to get “stuck” in the linear logical part. Don’t let this happen to you – it will just make the job of rewriting a lot harder!
The best way to prevent getting stuck is to write — or rewrite — first thing in the day, because our creative brains tend to be more active then. I’m not suggesting that you need to get up at 5 am or anything. Just do your rewriting shortly after waking up, whatever time that might be.
Later in the day, you can turn your attention to editing. And, as you do that, remind yourself it’s pointless to read your draft again and again with the vague notion of making it better.
Instead, follow a system. I use what I call the multiple pass system. I go through a segment of text, in my case a chapter, and I look for just one problem at a time. For example, I might check my sentence length. Are they all short enough? Then, I’ll go through the same segment of text again looking for a different problem, perhaps how I’ve used pronouns.
Following such a system will help you be much more specific and effective. Even though it might FEEL as though it’s taking longer, it won’t and you’ll be more successful.
Finally, let me wrap up with the bracing words of the famous writer Maya Angelou: “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”
Wanda, to maintain your enthusiasm for editing, understand that finishing a book isn’t a 100-yard dash — it’s a marathon — and you need to pace yourself so you can get through it. Take a break if you need to — but otherwise keep chipping away at the project, slowly and surely. You will be able to finish it.
If you’d like to learn more about how to make writing a happier and more rewarding process, check out my latest book Your Happy First Draft. I don’t sell it in bookstores or via Amazon. The only place to buy it is on my website, link on the screen below and in the show notes.