How to Stay Disciplined While Editing

Posted February 13, 2015 by Briana in Editing / 5 Comments

Photo Credit: Grotuk on Flickr

Writing takes discipline. This fact should come as no surprise. At the same time, there are many writers who don’t understand the amount of discipline you need to edit your work.

As someone who has struggled through the editing process and come out on the other side, I can tell you that it’s true: editing is hard work. No matter how good you think your first draft is, it still needs a lot of work, believe me. That’s where editing comes in.

I’ve almost always been able to put words down each day. For me, writing the first draft is the easiest part. I just let myself go. Whatever happens, I’ll reign myself in come second draft time. Of course, this method only works if I make it to the second draft. Once the first draft is finished, it’s tough to come crawling back to the keyboard to face what you’ve done. Speaking from personal experience, you need to cultivate self-discipline in the revision process.

From a practical standpoint, editing a novel isn’t much different than writing one. It may seem less organic than letting the words flow directly, but it is no less magical. Still, it’s easy to get discouraged while editing. Because you’re not pouring your heart and soul into the story, you might not feel like working as hard.

My trick for staying disciplined while editing is three-fold: read through your manuscript, make a list of what needed changing, and tackle the project with the same daily goals you used for drafting. After you finish your first draft, sit down somewhere quiet to read through it, making a list of parts that need fixing as you go along. Then, once you’re ready to dive into editing, go in with your usual time limits or word counts. For example, if my goal while drafting had been to write 500 words per day, I would work on editing a 500 word passage.

When it comes to editing, my best advice is to break the process down into small steps. Don’t try to revise the whole project at once. If you try to edit the entire story in one pass, you’ll feel overwhelmed and demotivated. Break the revision process into manageable chunks, stick to your goals, and do a little each day. That’s the only way I know to stay disciplined while editing.

What is your revision process like? How do you stay disciplined while editing something?

Tweet tweet:

How can you stay disciplined while editing? Writer @brianawrites has some advice. (Click to tweet

Leave a Reply

5 responses to “How to Stay Disciplined While Editing

  1. Rebecca P.

    I hate editing my work. I think I feel “embarrassed” to go back and read what I have written too. I AM proud of my work, but I feel so weird reading my own writing and thoughts. Once I get myself going though, I can usually make it though and then realize it WAS worth it!

  2. I do two passes for each edit-through.
    First pass is typos. I just look for mistyped words.

    Once I’m all the way through, and now that the story is fresh in my mind, I go to change odd turns of phrases, grammar, and other such.
    (So far that’s not hard, It’s easy. You just do a few sentences at a time, or however many you like)

    Then comes the hard part. Since now I’ve gone over the story twice, it’s really fresh. I ask myself: What would confuse th reader. I put my reader hat on and I say: what doesn’t transition correctly, what knowledge is introduced in the wrong place, by the wrong character, etc. Are the characters’ behaviors realistic. Is the dialog realistic. I make notes on paper for that.
    Then, after I’ve thought about it, I make the changes in the story.
    Then I go back to the top and hunt for typos (there are always typos–trust me).
    I also set myself a deadline to put the writing on the web, and I announce it on twitter and facebook. I certainly don’t want to be embarrased by the immediate feedback of “Hey you misspelled Mission” or “Why didn’t Joe just dump the gun in the lake”.
    That desire to make a perfectly readable story is what keeps me motivated to edit.

    Also, I realize that editing well makes me a better writer, so I want to do it myself and not pay someone else.

  3. Briana Morgan

    Most definitely! I tend to fix big-picture stuff first before addressing typos and grammar and all, but to each his own. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  4. Giada Di Marco

    A very good post dear 🙂

    I’m an italian fashion blogger and what do you think
    to follow each other here and on the other social networks? Thank you so much!
    Let me know when you follow me and I’ll follow back.

    Giada, blogger of Being Over the