Okay writers, this might sting, but I just can’t with your complaints about editing. I get it, though. Nobody likes to read an onslaught of their garbage writing, but if you don’t look at it, then NOBODY will. So you gotta suck it up and edit your fiction. Writing takes time and skill and you aren’t going to build any proper writing skills unless you edit. Editing’s a tough gig, yes, but I’ve got a few tricks to help you actually enjoy editing your fiction.
Embrace the Edit
Editing is the best part of writing fiction. Fight me. I will win.
Editing is a part of the writing process and is, arguably, the most important part. Anyone can write a story. Your purpose as writer is to tell a GOOD STORY and there’s no way in hell you’re going to tell a good story without editing.
If you need some brushing up on your editing skills, then I highly recommend you read the book Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and David King. It focuses on all the important elements that fiction requires, including POV, characterization, inner monologue and all that good stuff us writers love.
Accept That Your First Draft is Bad
I’m sorry, but it is. Your first draft is the biggest mistake you ever made in your life. Why the hell did you write it? It’s horrible. You’re horrible. You suck that everything you do.
Here’s the thing. Your brain can’t tell a cohesive story. It’s a human flaw. Storytelling takes practice, and every draft you write is what? PRACTICE. So just accept that your plot’s gonna have some holes. Your characters are gonna be flat. Your tension will be lacking. It’s no failure on your part, really. Every draft gives you better footing in your story. Calm down and find that footing. Accept the flaws and fix them, one by one.
Don’t Print Your First Draft
If you wrote your first draft correctly, it won’t be worth the paper it’s printed on (or the ink, which is hella expensive). The first draft is all about getting the story out of your head. It’s going to be a horrible disaster and it will also be lacking in all those essential plot elements that make a piece of writing good.
Treat that first draft like a half-draft. It’s NOT finished yet and you still have to write. So once you write that last scene, go back to the beginning and read over it. You will likely add some things, remove some things. I often find this process less painful a process when it’s on a digital screen. It feels less final and makes me feel a lot less lousy.
Then, once I get all the plot elements in place, I’ll print what I call Draft 1.5 (which is always better than a first draft) and yes, it proves to be a much easier beast to tame.
Embrace Your Inner Sadist
Okay, I know new writers enjoy writing with abandon, creating characters and throwing them into new situations with the intention of throwing the final result on the internet as soon as the story’s done. And well, you’re gonna need to establish yourself from ground rules, friendo.
You’re going to need to do some dominating.
The creative side of you wants to flourish but you can’t flourish without just a little bit of restriction. Story structure exists for a reason and your first draft is a real brat that’s going to need some control. Editing is that control.
So get out your whips and your chains and your spanking chair and that trusty pen and start dominating. And I don’t mean like serial killer-style. A proper dominant knows what’s best. Do your creative side some favours and establish some ground rules.
No more adverbs!
Stop relying on that phrase you keep using!
Shorten your sentences!
Hurts so gooooood, right?
Look, I know it stings. I’ve written a lot of self-deprecating stuff in the margins of all my drafts. It’s all a part of the writer’s struggle. It’s the stereotype. What kind of writer is happy-go-lucky amazing all the time.
Typically, I print out my second draft and get really heavy with the pen. So get dark. Get hateful. Get dirty. That second draft is for marking up and I like to mark mine up real good. It helps me get the angst out on the paper. Sometimes I wanna crumple the thing up and do something else, but this is the process.
Think of the second draft as a crappy B-movie. A real garbage idiot writer thought this was a great piece of work but now YOU (a good writer with the same name as the idiot writer for some reason) get to change all the scenes to your liking. Fix those problematic characters! Find all the plot holes! Pick the cheese out of your dialogue!
Enjoy editing your fiction, you little bitch.
The best part is that sometimes you find those little nuggets that are actually worthy. You find your worth after all that pain.
Give Your Narrative Craft the Chance to Evolve
Take yourself seriously and apply a little pressure. Being a good writer is accepting that your brain doesn’t function in a neat and tidy manner. Stories are characters and sets and action and drama, tension and voice carefully curated with craft. The craft part is the editing.
Fiction is not real life, and thus, needs a few drafts to sound convincingly like real life that comes full-circle. Writing needs reflection and time to evolve. Your writing will evolve with your editing. And that takes some serious, and yes, difficult work.
You cannot evolve as a writer without editing. The more you edit, the more you learn. The more you learn, the better your next first draft will be. You will learn story structure. You will learn what makes a great character. Stop striving for first-time perfection and give yourself the time to understand your flaws.
The more time you spend editing your fiction, the more you’ll enjoy it.
So it’s time to enjoy editing your fiction, writers. Embrace it. Love it. Make it something you look forward to.