One of the biggest challenges in being an author and an editor is turning off the editor brain. After spending all day proofreading and editing, it’s hard to come home and write or settle in with a book. Especially when I’m writing a first draft, it’s crucial to turn off my inner editor.
Lately, that’s been much easier said than done. And it’s not limited to my work. I read at least a chapter before I go to bed, and most of the time, I can’t help skimming the pages for grammatical errors.
In some ways, this is good. It allows me to analyze literature, dissect a piece to figure out what works, and emulate it in my own writing. But it also detracts from my enjoyment of the piece.
The same goes for my writing. How am I supposed to finish a draft if I edit it to death? Instead of moving forward, I’m trapped in a hell of my own making (the road to which is paved with adverbs—thank you, Stephen King). Falling into this never-ending editing nightmare is a good way to guarantee I never finish a book.
As writers, it’s normal to want to edit your fiction. You may even enjoy editing someone else’s work. Even if you’re a writer and a freelance editor, you should do your best to keep the two realms separate. Let your writing time be writing time, sacred and non-negotiable. The same goes for your editing time.
For me, I’ve found that it’s best to stick to one project at a time (I’m only just now getting that!) unless I’m first-drafting one and editing another. It’s too much stress on my brain, and I’m trying to be kinder to it. I suggest you do the same—we need our brains for building books!
I’ve learned to turn off my editor brain easier than I used to, but I still have some way to go. What about you? Do you struggle to keep from editing when you’re supposed to be writing? Tell me about it in the comments below! I’ll see you all back here next week.
Fiction writers, nonfiction writers, and poets alike utilize red pens to edit their work. If you don’t use a red pen, you’re certainly familiar with the backspace key, comments feature, and the Track Changes option on your word processor.
Editing is a vital part of the writing process. You can’t have good writing without rewriting. As Patricia Fuller said, “Writing without revising is the literary equivalent of waltzing gaily out of the house in your underwear.” It’s foolish.
Of course, there is such a thing as too much editing.
When basic revising crosses the line into over-analyzing every single word and piece of punctuation, you know you’re in trouble. Although revising is important, it needs to have a finite end. No piece of writing can be more than nearly perfect. If you go through the same piece over and over again without stopping, you’re sacrificing time and effort better given to new projects.
I am now and have always been a perfectionist. I’m rarely satisfied with my completed pieces. When editing my work, I have a hard time stopping myself. There’s always something that needs to be fixed—in my eyes, at least.
As writers, we can also be our own worst critics. Our standards are different than everyone else’s. Sometimes the prose is not as bad as our minds make it out to be.
Additionally, editing can turn into a vehicle for procrastination. When we’re afraid to start new projects, we waste all our time on polishing pieces that are already excellent. Sometimes we just need to stop. Sometimes we need to give up.
We need to walk away.
If you’re waiting for someone to tell you that your work is perfect, the wait is over. You want someone to tell you that it’s okay to stop? To move on? To start something new?
That’s where I come in.
That thing you’ve been editing to death is fine as is, I promise.
It’s not a monster. It won’t frighten anybody. Slide it into your desk drawer, close the drawer, and go outside. Take a walk around the neighborhood. Play with your children.
Write something else.
The world doesn’t end just because you stop editing.
What do you think? When do you stop editing?
When is it time to stop editing?@brianawrites says it might be sooner than you think. (Click to tweet)