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Growing Past the Fear of Editing

Posted by on June 12, 2013

When I finished writing Adrift in September last year, I had all these great expectations that I’d be able to knock out my editing in a month and be able to release it before Christmas.

Then I started doubting myself.

“What if it’s not as good as I think it is?”
“What if people don’t like it?”
“What if I haven’t researched enough?”

I sent it to more people for feedback. Most of what I received was excellent and I was able to adjust things accordingly pretty quickly. A small portion of it made me afraid to read back over my entire work, thinking I’d hate what I’d written, and wonder what on Earth I was thinking when I made all the decisions I’d made with the story.

Fear.

I spent several sessions talking to my friend Kris on Skype to help me work past all the sailing terminology and few piratical errors I had made. We talked boats and ships and I changed my brigantine to a brig, learning how to better describe it. I became aware of the fact I shouldn’t call it a ship because ships have three masts but a brig only has two. We talked backstory and what was realistic.

With Kris’s help, I was able to fix a lot in specific sections, but I was still too afraid to read over my entire novel from beginning to end. But I knew I couldn’t release it until I did.

A lot of my fear had come down to feedback from someone who reads and writes in a different genre from myself, and though she had a lot of valid points that I incorporated, some of the comments I was given led me to question if I would even like the story I had when I read over it from beginning to end.

My reading habits are also such that they’re not conducive to wanting to read over my own work. I tend to read books slowly, once, and never re-read even if I liked it, because I find it very time consuming. I think the only books I’ve read more than once are some of the Harry Potter ones, when I wanted to remember everything that happened prior to the release of either Half-Blood Prince or The Deathly Hallows.

What it took for me to print off chapter two (after having already edited chapter one from starting it over again) was notification that we were going to be without power for an entire afternoon. I didn’t want to waste it if I already wasn’t going to be able to use my computer. I thought I’d just edit that chapter like that. I’d been averse to printing the whole book to edit because I thought it was a waste of paper, and I don’t want to damage the environment more than I already do.

But then I discovered it actually worked better for me than editing on the computer. Without the distraction of other things on the Internet, I could sit or lie on my bed, or sit at the table while eating lunch, and just read, and find changes that needed to be made. Since it’s already been formatted for the print version, it was almost like reading the actual book.

Edits made to the first two pages of chapter 4

Click on the image if you want a preview of chapter 4, with editing comments.

And now… I just want to say that a lot can be said about writing the kind of story you would like to read. It actually makes slogging through the editing of your own writing feel less like work and more like entertainment. And with how long I left it between finishing the first draft, and reading over the entire thing (bear in mind I did edit bits and pieces in that time), had two major benefits.

1. I was able to read through with a more critical eye to decide what still needed to be changed, and what was missing.

2. I had forgotten some parts of the story, so reading it elicited emotions in me that I wanted to elicit in my readers. I laughed at things I thought were funny, and found myself with my mouth agape in another spot, wanting to read more to find out what this particular character did next. It was like, “How did I write myself out of that?”

It was really nice to learn that I still loved the story and characters I wrote. I still need to incorporate the changes I made on paper into the manuscript on my computer, and write a couple of extra scenes I noted that should be included (I’ve already written some, but not all). But reading over my own story was really the most motivating thing I could have done. It made me believe in my book again, and realise I do actually have what it takes.

It’s important to remember that there will always be someone who doesn’t like your writing. You can’t have 100% 5 star reviews. So write what you want to read, be proud of your finished product, and take feedback — positive and negative — for what it is: one person’s opinion. You can learn from what others say, and incorporate what you agree with, but you may also need to consider that person’s background, and what they like versus what you do.

Right now, the most important thing to me is being proud of the work I produce. And I love Adrift. I can’t wait to send it to my proofreaders in the next couple of days.

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Dominica has a strong interest in exploring diversity in media, seeing people subverting corporate control of creativity through crowdfunding and indie publishing, and spending as much time as she can travelling the world and discovering culture. This is what she most regularly blogs about. In her spare time, Dominica is primarily focused on long-form improv theatre, and writing and publishing speculative fiction. You can find links to some of her free and published stories and screenplays on her writing page, or check out her pirate time-travel novel Adrift. Though born and raised in Australia to American parents, Dominica lived in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, between 2008-2014, until she moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. She also has a background in web programming, filmmaking, and stand-up comedy. For more information, check out her about page, or any of the specific pages about her various creative pursuits in the links at the top of the page.

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