Insecure Writers Support Group: The Editing Monster Will Devour You

Mid-July I completed my first round of revisions on my manuscript. I was ecstatic and eager to move to the next round — I’d realized part way through that I had some continuity errors that needed to be fixed, and some thematic arcs that needed work. So as soon as the first round was done I printed out the entire manuscript and took a pen to it.

The interesting thing about taking pen to page is that it seems to bump me into editorial brain. And, since it was my own work, I wasn’t about making sure to present my comments carefully so as to not hurt feelings or unduly discourage. I let myself fly and, though I wasn’t aiming to do line-edits this round I did allow for marking those places where I would, at some future point, need to take another look.

Then the margin notes began.  “Meh” turned to “eh” to “bah” to “ugh” and finally “gah.” As the shorthand notations of dislike grew I began to seriously doubt myself.

Editing the hard copy, with my writing-fuel on hand.

How could I consider myself a writer when every page was covered with sentences and paragraphs that demanded to be rewritten?

Thankfully I realized and recognized this attitude so began to shift what I wrote.  The second half of the manuscript has a few meh‘s and plenty of circled passages but most of the line-edit related margin notes simply state “clean up.”

The draft I was revising was just that, a draft. One that I had approached constantly with the thought “that’s what editing and revising is for.”  I knew as I wrote it that the work was not my best quality writing, that the paragraphs were problematic from a language usage perspective. My goal had been to simply get the story on the page, with the plan to fix the language later. Of course it was going to need work.

I’ve stepped back from the edge – reassured myself that I am a writer.  Perhaps even more so now than ever before as I have been willing to push through the challenges of editing and continue to push through the challenges of more rewriting.  If my notes are to be believed I have a lot of word-smithing that awaits me in a future edit.  But I can do this.

Part of this first novel process is about learning my process.  This revision has taught me that I need to be careful in the future.  If I had been editing someone else’s manuscript and it looked like this I would never note a paragraph as gah! I would point out the issues I saw, make suggestions to think about in restructuring, and perhaps some larger issues I saw repeated through the manuscript.  I would always include something good (strong potential, good ideas, a great phrase — there is always something good to point to). Why don’t I treat myself with the same kindness?  Even if I don’t write it out as clearly, the thoughts need to be kept in mind.

We are often our own worst critics and we deserve to also be our own best cheerleaders. Be gentle with yourselves, fellow writers.

This is my monthly post as part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a IWSG badgegreat group of supportive writers, helping one another through our writing ups-and-downs.
There is also a great Facebook Community for more daily connection!  More posts from the group are tagged on Twitter at #IWSG. 

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20 thoughts on “Insecure Writers Support Group: The Editing Monster Will Devour You”

  1. I try to imagine how I would handle editing if I were still a child creating stories for myself. As a child I had no problem changing things up, ripping out pages and starting over. There wasn’t this sense of rushing or judgment. I had all the time in the world to get things right and the the process meant more than the finished product. Obviously we are adults now, but you’re so right about being gentle with ourselves.


    1. The ripping it up, starting over, revising certainly isn’t the issue — SO MUCH to fix! I was a pretty self-critical kid though, so not sure I was so good at the gentle-hand then either!


  2. My early drafts get good and bloody when I start revising them. Much gentleness and encouragement are required, especially in those early drafts. I think there’s a big difference between “editor brain” and “snarky critic brain,” and I have to fight to use the former and not the latter.


  3. It is a lot easier to edit our own work than the work of others. We don’t have to worry about whether or not we hurt our feelings or are being gentle with our suggestions. Even so, seeing all of the things that need to be worked on can make us feel lesser than other writers. But we have to remember that EVERY writer goes through this.

    Congrats on finishing your first round of revisions!

    IWSG co-host Write with Fey


    1. Honestly, I find it easier to edit other people’s work because that gentleness is much easier for me when I’m dealing with other people. I NEED to remember to use the same consideration with myself, otherwise it just get’s painful and can be debilitating!


    1. Thanks!
      Ah, Pitch Wars! My original goal had actually been to have this manuscript ready for Pitch Wars this year.. but the year went sideways very quickly and I had to revise my plans — maybe next year 🙂


  4. If it was perfect the first time, there would be no need to look over it for revisions. But you wouldn’t have written it in the first place if you didn’t think something good could come of it.


  5. Aren’t we all our own worst enemy? Talk about insecurity! There’s something about editing/revising on paper that makes it much easier for me.

    Best wishes,
    Diane IWSG #95


  6. My biggest issue with writing my second book was trying to keep my editor hat off and just write. It really slowed me down. I kept thinking editing as I went along would work when I know it just doesn’t work that way.
    Editing really is a monster.


  7. I really like how you went from harsh criticism that had you doubting yourself to the type of criticism you would give others. It’s so easy to be harder on yourself. All writers deserve the gentler treatment. Wonderful realization there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I’m just glad I had it before I finished editing the manuscript and had decided I was a worthless writer! Think I need to come up with a good mantra or reminder of some sort to stick behind my computer….

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Editing monster! I understand the feeling. I’m doing edits now. Okay full confession, I’m doing edits on the novel I self-published because (long story longer) I was graduating from grad school and an acquaintance “suggested” it (devil whispering in your ear) and I was like – I need something to vent so I bit the bullet and self-published on Amazon, probably before it was ready. Now I’m fine-tooth-combing the “final” draft and I’m like, this needs serious work. I even put it to a professional editor previously and they made minor suggestions but… they couldn’t love it like I love it, you know? I want it to sing when I’m done and that’s going to take time, to make the prose really sing.
    Editing is like a time-gobbling monster, but okay I love it. 🙂


    1. I definitely love parts of the editing process… once I remember to be kind about it! Though I’m definitely tripping over a few things right now that I don’t wanna deal with. Better to trip over them now, I figure, than further down the road! Good luck with your own revisions — I totally understand wanting it to sing when it’s done, not PERFECT, exactly, but JUST right.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Love this — it’s an aspect of “edit your work like it’s someone else’s” I’ve not seen before. Usually the focus is on separating yourself so you can judge more harshly, but that’s not always what you need. It’s not just harshness vs niceness, it’s also about fairness. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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