Letter to myself: The emotional ups and down of editing

In my last post, I mentioned the technical hardships I faced when trying to edit a novel for the first time. Today, I’ll talk about a much different aspect of editing your very first novel first draft, the emotional hardships, in a letter to myself:

So you’re editing your first draft. You’ve read the glorious parts, those that made it worth being written in the first place. However, you’ve also read all the worst parts, those that will have to be completely rewritten or even reimagined. It was part of the deal from the beginning. But you might have come to feel that those ugly parts make up 75% of the book. As for the remaining 25%, there is still much work to do there.

You’ve spent so much time on your first draft, and it was so hard to get to the end of it, and now it’s like you have to start over. You thought you had 50% – at least – of the job done, but it turns out that wasn’t even 25%.

Now, you don’t want to get discouraged. You want to push through, that’s how things get done. But a novel is long. After having spent a great many hours rereading and critiquing your own work, writing “rewrite this section completely” and “this is terrible” and “this scene has no point”, it’s obvious you’d start feeling down at some point. No matter how intense your passion, too much negative comments directed at you every day is bound to have some impact.

So, now you’re down. You’ve avoided your novel for a few days, to spare your feelings, recharge your battery. It’s tempting to start feeling guilty for those days when you didn’t work on your novel, on making your dream come true. But self-loathing at this point is the worst you could do. Self-loathing is always the worst you could do.

keep calm and edit on a

Relax, don’t feel guilty. You have the right to feel down, it doesn’t mean your resolve is weak. You have the right to a short break to regroup. You can use the break to read or to work on some other story. But then, you have to snap out of it and keep going.

You might want to give up the whole thing. Start a new and “better” story. I can’t tell you not to do that. If you hate the thing, if you can’t even find 25% worth saving because you’ve come to hate the story, you can recycle it and work on something you can love. You don’t have to feel guilty for giving up on a story. It’s not wasted time; it still gave you some experience.

If you love your story, but are disappointed that it didn’t come out as good as you expected, though, you have keep going because that’s what pros do. I love the saying “fake it till you make it: if you want to be a professional writer, do like they do. Follow their process: planning, first draft, rewrite, edit, professional edit, beta reading, edit. Then you can think about finding an agent or publishing.

The good new is: that first draft is so terrible that you can only make it better now. Every change makes it better. Not to mention that seeing how terrible it is (and why) is a power in itself. You know what should be done to make it better, or at least part of it.

Eventually, you’ll have to let it go; accept that your first novel can’t hold a candle to genius first novels like Pride and Prejudice or Harry Potter, that it might not even be worth a 5/10 on your own book review-scale. You’ll have to be content with having finished a novel properly, like a professional writer, and gaining experience doing it. You’ll maybe have to be content with publishing it online and receiving only a lukewarm response to it. You’ll do better on the next book.

But you’ll cross that bridge when you come to it. For now, keep calm and carry on.


9 thoughts on “Letter to myself: The emotional ups and down of editing

    • Exactly.

      Then you can see about improving the result or aiming at producing a better result next time. I work best when I take things slowly. ^_^

      Thank you for your comment.


  1. The nice thing is, you never have to say your book is “done” until you’re happy with it, so you can keep chipping away at editing. There’s no deadline, no due date, so you can keep working until it’s where you want it to be…and as you said, if you find there isn’t enough to love in it, you can just move on.

    By the way, you might be interested in our Writers Club. We help find beta readers for authors, and we offer free editing as a member perk…to where you can let someone else wade through your draft and help you dig out the gold nuggets hiding beneath the surface. 🙂 https://www.patreon.com/AWritersPath

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This was a beautiful post. As an indie author, I too know the frustrations of editing my own work. May I make a suggestion though? See, I eventually found myself a beginning editor. She has a lot to learn, but she is still able to pick out mistakes I have made. Besides, I’m a beginning author who has a lot to learn, so the two of us learn and grow together. Have you ever considered hiring a beginning editor? They don’t ask much, and it helps them to grow while you continue to grow as an author.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh yes, I’ll eventually hire an editor, I’m already saving for it… though for my novel I’d like one who has some experience. I thought of hiring a beginner for shorter, less “professional” projects though. I’m just not there yet; I need to make this the best I can before I send it to someone, or else they’ll tell me things I already know. XD

      Liked by 1 person

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