Monday, March 2, 2015

5 Tips For Keeping Your Sanity During Edits

by Stephanie Morrill

Stephanie writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com. Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series (Revell) and the Ellie Sweet books (Playlist). You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website including the free novella, Throwing Stones.

For the last few weeks, I've been pressing toward a destination that I really want to reach: Being done with major edits on my YA historical romantic suspense book.

I've been with this book for over a year now. I finished my first draft back in April 2014, and despite only taking a few weeks off before I started edits, I'm still editing.

Still. Editing.

Why is that?

One reason is that I taught myself two new genres with this book (historical and mystery). I was learning as I wrote my first draft, and it showed.

Another is that we've had a lot of "life stuff" going on around here. It seems hardly a week goes by that I'm not dragging Connor to a doctor's appointment or volunteering in McKenna's class or doing something else with what is normally my work time.

Also, this book is longer than anything I've written before. It was a 67,000 word first draft, and it's currently sitting at 93,000 words.

Plus along the way, there were breaks when I waited on others to read and provide feedback.

But here's the big reason: When you're doing edits the right way, it's a slow, tedious job.



There's no way around that, so I've found instead of fixating on how slow it's going, it's best to find ways to keep your spirits up during the process:

1. Give yourself a deadline.

Many of us work best when we have a goal of when we want to be done. When I set my deadline, I try to figure out how long I think it'll take me, and then I build in some extra time.

My goal was to be done with edits by last Saturday. As the 28th loomed closer, I could tell I wasn't going to finish in time unless I worked crazy hours. I decided the cost of the crazy hours wasn't worth it to me, and that I would finish this week instead.

If it's a publisher's deadline, I don't have that luxury, but fortunately this time I do.

2. Set small goals.

After you've determined when you want to be done by, try to figure out a daily or weekly goal. I've learned that I can only get through two to three chapters each work day that I have, so then I was able to set myself a goal of finishing by Friday.

It's fine to use a goal to push yourself a little harder, but it's also has to be something that you can reasonably do. The idea is to encourage yourself through edits by being able to cross off small tasks, so you don't want to set yourself up for failure by making your small tasks insurmountable.

3. Reward yourself when you meet your daily goals.

With the first draft, the only reward I need is seeing the word count climb as the day goes on. But editing? You might work all day and end up with negative words, despite writing an entire new scene. I often build rewards into my edit schedule to keep myself motivated. Some examples of rewards that have worked for me are:

  • When I finish this page, I get 5 minutes on Pinterest.
  • After this chapter, I get a cookie.
  • If I meet my goal for the day, I can watch The Daily Show tonight.

4. Try to find someone who will encourage you along the way.

Last Thursday, I was getting downright mad at myself. I had planned to have my book done and sent to Jill by Saturday, and it wasn't going to happen. I complained to my husband about this, and he reminded me that we have quite a bit going on in our lives right now. Jill told me the same thing.

I realized that I had done everything I couldother than rush through the jobto try and meet the deadline I had set for myself. I had been working hard and using my time wisely. I had done my best, and I needed an extra week to finish. That's okay.

If you can't find someone who can encourage you, try to find something. Maybe you could design a possible cover for the book to hang up by your work space. Or write yourself a book love list, which is just a list of things you inexplicably love about your book. For my Ellie Sweet books, my list looked something like this:
  • A heroine with glasses
  • A boy with a Jeep
  • Fountain Cokes with ice
  • Old style photography classes
You can have as long a list as you like, and there are no rights or wrongs. They're just things that endear you to this particular story.

5. Try to not overthink the job.

My brother-in-law was in town last week and asked how the book was coming along. I shared that edits were going much slower than I had hoped. And then my seven-year-old daughter said something that really struck me as brilliant. "When I'm writing a story," she said, "after I finish a sentence, I read it to be sure it makes sense."

And that's what edits are. Getting the book to where it makes sense to others—with sentence structure, character motivations, word choices, plot twists, etc.one sentence at a time.

It can be very overwhelming to think of everything that must be fixed before you're officially done, but it's not so overwhelming if your only job is to make sure this one sentence makes sense. And then the next sentence. And so on.

Remember, editing is a skill. Just like you had to learn to write a complete first draft, you'll have to learn how to edit an entire book. You'll get better and faster, but in my experience, it's always a long, messy process.

I'm hoping to finally, finally, finally finish up my edits this week. Do you have writing goals this week? Consider sharing below and then checking in later to let us know how the week went.

43 comments:

  1. Oh my goodness. I'm in the midst of edits right now and, I'll admit, I think it's my toughest first draft ever. Luckily, with a trip coming up this week, I'll have 8+ hours I can use to edit and press on. Thanks for this encouraging post, Mrs. Morrill.

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  2. Good luck on edits! I agree with Linea... I use road trips to do editing marathons. Not the most fun, but it gets the job done, particularly since I can't really walk away from it.

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  3. Thank you for these tips. I'm editing right now, and I feel myself slowly dying inside. Still, it's nice to return to beloved characters after leaving them rest for a while. I have to remember that I'm doing a good thing by improving the story!

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    1. Yes. It's very important stuff. Just rather tedious at times :)

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  4. I am editing my first novel right now, and it such a slow process. I think I had some kind of weird idea before I ever edited a novel that editing would be quick and easy, but it really isn't. I have to completely rewrite my novel for my third draft of edits, which is going to take a lot of time. And then after that I'll have to do more line edits. Deadlines really do help-as long as they are attainable. If they aren't attainable, then they'll overwhelm me, and I won't get anything done. I would like to be querying by December, so I'm setting an edit goal for November for myself. It's attainable, but will also keep me on track.

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  5. I'm in the middle of a huge editing slump. I'm hoping this article will provide enough inspiration to get me out of it. Thanks Stephanie!!
    ~Sarah Faulkner
    Inklined

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    1. I'm sorry, Sarah! Hopefully that will end soon for you. :)

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  6. Oh, gosh, this is exactly what I needed to hear today. I've been really frustrated with how /slow/ I'm going, but I guess it's all part of the job. ;) Thanks so much Stephanie! :)

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    1. Yes, it is! I'm glad it was comforting to you.

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  7. Patience BledsoeMarch 2, 2015 at 8:49 AM

    When I saw the title of this post, I thought, "Wow - what perfect timing!" This was exactly what I needed. I'm behind on my goals, so am trying to finish up my fourth round of revisions here this month and definitely need help keeping my sanity. :) Thank you so much for the post, Mrs. Morrill! I hope you're able to wrap up your edits this week and the best of wishes for it! :) And to everyone else struggling with edits, you definitely have my sympathies. Goals do help, and I love the idea of rewards, Mrs. Morrill. I'm going to try and do three chapters a day and I want to try doing the goals with them. Thanks again!!

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    1. I'm glad the timing worked out so well, Patience!

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  8. I'm actually really really really extremely stuck. It's not that stuck type that you're tapped out on words to write and ideas are slimming, it's the block where I just don't WANT to write it. I want to finish my story, but the transitions from one plot point to another is a huge gap. I'm actually working on editing my other novel so this'll come in handy! Thanks for another great post!!! :)

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    1. I'm glad it was helpful, Emma. I hope you get unstuck soon!

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  9. I'm attempting to edit my firsts book in a trilogy I wrote. My head is spinning since I started editing in January. I am still struggling through doing a loose edit of the rough draft. I haven't gotten through half of the book with my first edit and my goal was to be done by the end of the year. At this rate I'm afraid it will never get done. But I have been so busy with school and my job I don't know how to make time. Any tips on fitting time in, and how long should it really take me to do a first edit? Am I spending to much time on it?

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    1. Every writer is different, but when I'm in that stage of editing, it usually takes me about 20-30 minutes per page. If you're in a busy season of life and you're not able to work very consistently, that'll make it tougher, for sure.

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  10. I hope everything goes well with finishing up your book! It sounds like such a fantastic story.
    I would love to finish the final chapter (technically second to last, final chapter has been done for about a month) of my current first draft WIP. It has been dragging the past week or two, but I want to say I finally finished a novel draft. And at the current 120,000 words I know I'm really in for it after I take my editing break! At least I know I write a tad on the long side. Thank you for the advice. =)

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    1. Wow, Kelsey! That's a big book!

      And thank you for the encouragement :)

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  11. Yesterday I was able to edit my first chapter for a story that I'm writing for TABC. It was so much fun because I was able to have my dad and my older sister help me.

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    1. Oh, I love that you have a supportive family! How great!

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  12. Just started actually focusing in on grammar and spelling edits this week with my dad, our goal is three chapters a day (they're short chapters) :) I'm hoping to self publish my book by the end of this September, I'll see how it goes...

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    1. Best of wishes, Eliza! I'm hoping to self publish my book this year by the end of October. :) Three chapters a day is a good goal! What genre is your story?

      Blessings,
      Patience

      P.S. Saw your blogger profile . . . Very nice! :) I'm the eldest of nine children and we homeschool too.

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    2. Patience, thank you! I just saw that your goal is three chapters too, that's neat! It's also very cool that you have eight younger siblings :) My story is Christian contemporary fiction, I guess that is what you would call it. I hope that people of all ages will enjoy it but I was orginally writing for 8 to 12 year old girls. What is your story's genre?
      Eliza

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    3. Yes, it is! :) Ahh, Christian contemporary fiction--very nice! I have a friend who writes in that genre too. :) And that's great about your audience! :) How long is your novel? For self-publishing, are you going with CreateSpace? Thank you! Mine is Christian historical fiction.

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    4. I don't think I'm into history enough to write historical fiction although I may try it someday. I enjoy writing stuff I personally know about more. I think I will use CreateSpace. I've talked to melody Jackson (http://melodyjacksonauthor.blogspot.com/p/writing-advice.html) about it and it seems like the best way to go. Are you going to use CreateSpace? If you don't mind me asking how old are you? If you don't want to tell that's fine (pretty sure you're older than me since you have more younger siblings)

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    5. I understand that. :) Thanks for the link -- I'll have to visit it! CreateSpace does sound like the best way to go, and yes, that's what I'm going to do too. :) *smiles* I'm 20. What about you?

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    6. No problem! Melody Jackson is really nice I've asked her tons of questions about self publishing. She's been really helpful. I'm 15. I better go now :)

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    7. Patience BledsoeMarch 2, 2015 at 1:09 PM

      Nice chatting with you, Eliza! :)

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  13. I'm a third of the way through the third draft of my WIP. My goal was to be finished with that by the end of the month, but I think I'll have to extend that by a week or two since I'm overloaded with homework.
    Editing can get tiring, but it's nice thinking about how much better the story is compared to the first draft!

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  14. I don't have any specific writing goals for this week. I just finished reading through my first draft and I'm busy with fixing the things I noticed there. So yeah, I'm in the editing process, but not with a fixed goal for this week.

    arendedewit.blogspot.com

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  15. This post came at the right time! I am about done (finally) with my edits after two months. It seems like it will never end... I have motivated myself some by working information for book proposals and query letters when taking editing breaks.

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  16. I'll definitely refer back to this post when I start edits on something...though it seems like if I get to the end of something -or a point where I make a big discovery like "Whoops, I want this set at a boarding school" that would render finishing the draft with the current outline counterproductive- and let it simmer, I don't really have a plan for edits so much as a realization that I basically need to scrap the whole thing and write a different book that happens to have a character with the same name and maybe a bit of plot stuff in common. (Perhaps that's how my editing process is? But then what happens when I need to edit a rewrite...? ) Or just write a completely different book, period. That's usually what happens. *sighs*

    Wow, am I being negative today. *glares at pessimist self* Maybe the book that I'm planning right now will be "the one" that I make it through edits with. And if not, hey, I'm still young. I'll figure something out someday.

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  17. Such a timely post for me! I've been doing edits on one project for a while now, and, as much as I do love it, I kinda wish I was finished :p I don't normally set long-term goals for editing, but I do have daily goals. When I can check those off my list, focusing on just one thing at a time, it does make it seem like I'm actually getting somewhere. :)
    Again, awesome post! And I wish you luck finishing your edits! :D


    Alexa S. Winters
    thessalexa.blogspot.com

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  18. Thanks so much for the encouragement. I'm kind of in a sad and terrifying stage where it's like I want to want to write, rather than just...you know...wanting to write. And the prospect of editing has been terribly dreaded as well. Lately my goal has just been to find a way to enjoy writing again...

    But thanks so much for the post. I will be referencing this when I do get back to editing again. :)

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  19. That final comment about making my story make sense to others is going to help me so much as I dive into edits later this month! Thank you for a wonderful post!

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  20. Great timing for this. My goal for the week is to finish the first draft of my novel then I can move on to editing. I'm so excited!

    HP

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    1. Congratulations!! :D *high five*

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  21. Thanks for writing this post! I really needed to read it. I'm editing a story right now and feeling overwhelmed, so this definitely helped! :)

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