I actually like editing. The bones of my book are already there, and at that point, I know I have a good story. I’ve worked out the major plot tangles and character arcs, defined the conflicts, and sorted the ending. It may not be smooth yet, but I know where I’ve started, where I’ve ended up, and I have a lot of good, if raw, material in the middle.
It’s out. I’ve birthed a novel. Well, I’ve birthed a manuscript anyway. I know it’s a long way from the finished product.
Editing will take that raw material and refine it, smooth out the flow, and create balance. I know that my fantastic editor will see the things I can’t and cue me to fix them. I know that when I’ve finished this process I will have a much better book. I know that I can get through it because I’ve done it before.
And yet, when I turn in the draft of my manuscript, after months of intensive work, I don’t even want to think about touching it again. I’m exhausted, and the thought of tearing it apart and reassembling it is daunting. It’s also the time where I am plagued by the most crippling self-doubt. What if it’s terrible? What if I have to scrap the whole thing and start over? I’ll never write again. I have no talent. And so it goes…
Inside my head, it’s a strange and dark place during those few weeks. At first, I’m elated that I’ve finished writing, and can confirm with myself that yes, I did it again. I wrote another book. Almost immediately, the doubt sets in. See above. Then, I actually receive the manuscript back from my editor. Let me say this about my editor before I go any further. She’s incredibly skilled at her job. She gets my vision for the story and helps me define it more clearly. She works with the structure of the whole, while digging into the subtle, fine details. She’s masterful and I love her.
But when I get her five-page editorial document filled with commentary, and my own manuscript, covered in red-ink, back from her, I want to cry. I want to call her on the phone immediately and beg her to tell me she loves me and I don’t suck. I’m sure she’s pleased when I refrain from doing those things.
Instead, I read what she’s sent me thoroughly, and then I put it aside for a few days, maybe a week. I let the ideas percolate. I begin to see the places where what she’s suggesting resonates with what I already knew. I take it seriously when she reacts to something in a way I didn’t intend. I recognize my own bad writing habits.
Creative ideas for how to fix things start to flow, in the same way they did when I wrote the draft. I scribble notes everywhere, from the backs of napkins to the little pad I keep by my bed for middle of the night inspiration. I form a plan of attack. Then I call my editor. We talk. We even laugh. And I remember that I love writing, and I’m reassured that I might just have some small bit of skill at it.