The Five Phases of Editing


Dear Loved Ones, Friends, Co-Workers and Fellow Planet Dwellers of the Writer:

I think it’s time someone explains why your Writer-in-Residence behaves like a sulking, caffeine-addicted mess during long stretches of time. In a word: Editing. Yes, it’s an ugly problem with no solution. The following are common phases of editing:

  1. Initial Edit/ re-write after the rough draft
    1. Mantra: “It isn’t that bad. I can fix this.”
    2. Signs: Normal dress. Bright eyes, slight concern.
  2. Fleshing Out the Story Draft
    1. Mantra: “Hey, this is really good. I think this just might be my break out novel.”
    2. Signs: Normal dress with the occasional day in PJs. Lost in thought. Nods often to themselves.
  3. Plot Hole Fixes Draft
    1. Mantra: “What the hell was I thinking? I suck. The book sucks. This will never sell.”
    2. Signs: Unintelligible muttering. Glossy eyes. Irritability. Throws laptop across the room.
  4. Razzle-dazzle Draft
    1. Mantra: “Oh Gawd! When is it going to be over?”
    2. Signs: Openly weeping. Loss of sleep.
  5. I Hate This F’ing Book Final Draft
    1. Mantra: “I’m dead inside.”
    2. Signs: Weight gain. Depression. Empty take out boxes littering the floor.

How you can help your Writer-in-Residence:

Phases 1-3:  Be supportive. Tell them you have faith in their talent. Read their crappy draft of the novel and provide sincere, but kind feedback.

Phases 4 and 5. Put a pot of coffee and several boxes of take-out next to their laptop. Walk away. Don’t poke or prod your writer (even if they appear dead) until the manuscript has been sent out.


6 thoughts on “The Five Phases of Editing

  1. What an interesting step by step analysis that is so true it practically hurts. My editing process is quite strange in comparison to the usual, some have even gone so far as to call it “wrong” which to me is utterly ridiculous. Whatever gets work done, gets work done.

    As someone who struggles with perfectionism, I am uncomfortable with continuing something I truly cannot tolerate. This is why the whole “write the first draft, even though it’s absolute crap, and then revisit it” causes me to delete any and everything. It’s an uncomfortable anxiety for me to work on something I know I’m not yet content with. I can’t fix it later; I must fix it now.

    I typically write a continuation of my previous section on a printed out draft. It’s a musing, the bare bones of what I want. I may flesh it out once I get more ideas but I typically end up adding it to the previous writing, printing out the new section, tearing it apart, adding to it, making new slighter smaller edits, than I use that energy and current mindset to write another continuation. It certainly is slower, with all my school work and limited time, I probably can write one page that I don’t hate in a day or two.

    That being said, I’ve been unable to write for a while so I looked back at the ten pages I completed over the course of two months and I found myself scarily content. I didn’t necessarily love it, I just simply didn’t cringe in disgust.

    That, for me, rarely happens. So, while my method is not terribly accepted or common, it works for me and is still filled with the PJ wearing, coffee pouring, tear spilling anxiety that all editing accompanies, just like your journey.

    • Hi Elaina – “Cringe in disgust” loved that! It really is a struggle to keep moving through those edits without wanting to just walk away. I think once a creative mind finds a way to get through such a hard exercise, they should stick with the approach no matter who says what. It took me years to figure out the best approach for my brain. I’m constantly trying to improve and streamline, but the method remains the same.

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