Don’t Panic: Help to Maintain Your Editing Sanity

Unless you’ve chosen editing as your profession, you probably find editing a chore. I know I do. Is it necessary? Oh, yeah. As I go through the process, I find that some chapters are pretty good (yeah!), some need some work (time-consuming), and some are banished altogether (sometimes painful). Paragraphs get moved. Chapters get moved. New scenes are added. There’s no way around it. Editing is tedious work.

Screen Shot 2014-05-05 at 11.14.40 AMHowever, there are things you can do to make it (slightly) better. Maybe some of these will strike your fancy or not. Take them or leave them but try one if you’re in the mood to break up the editing blues or just for a change of pace.

  • Break up your book into sections. I’ve found that after I’ve printed the entire manuscript and given it an overall read-through (no actual edits yet), the pile of pages can look daunting. Take 50 pages or 75 or 100 and edit just those. With each section finished, you feel like you’ve accomplished something.
  • Don’t beat yourself up. Sometimes it takes longer than you think to complete the process. Every writer wants their work to shine. To make your work the best it can be means doing it right. Understand that can mean weeks and months. Don’t skimp on your time!
  • Put it down. Yes, walk away from your baby for a few days or a few weeks. Do something fun like visit a museum, go to the beach, or just take long walks. Let yourself escape. If you do, you may gain new perspective when you come back to it.
  • Pat yourself on the back. Whether it’s your first book or your tenth, you’ve finished a manuscript. Many writers don’t get that far. When you’re having a bad day, remember what you’ve already achieved. It’s a lot!
  • Refresh your editing skills. Revisit any editing guides you may have and troll websites. You can create a checklist like the one below to use during the process.
  • Keep the faith and know it will get better. For every chapter you chop (it adds nothing to the plot, tension, etc.) or needs a major overhaul (how could I have written such crap?), there will be a chapter that makes you smile. It won’t be perfect – how could it be yet? – but it will flow, build tension, and engage. You won’t cringe when you read it. Even better, you’ll want to turn the page to your own book. What could be better than that?
  • Read, read, read. I don’t always read books in my genre while I’m writing, but I think reading is still a must all of the time. When you finish a book, you know what you did and didn’t like about it. Your brain is taking it all in and that can only make you a better writer AND editor.

Maybe you already do all of these or you have some other secret that helps you get through it. Good. Drop me a line! I know I need all the help I can get. I’m halfway through now and I just took the last 3 days off. I spent a lot of time outside getting some fresh air. I went out with friends and enjoyed (too much) wine. I read a good book. I’m recharged and ready to dive in again.

Happy Editing!

Below is a short checklist to apply to your writing. Only 10 items, it’s a compilation of what I’ve learned through my freelance work, editing guides, and advice from fabulous writing blogs. Use it once or as many times as you need. Of course, it goes without saying that spelling and grammar must be checked. This list does cover many of the basics but let me know if there’s anything you want to add. I’d love to hear from you!

  1. Use contractions – particularly in dialog to avoid sounding formal. Similarly, don’t use big words unless it’s essential to a character’s personality.
  2. Use said when writing dialog. Don’t explain your dialog with adverbs. Exceptions may be softly or clearly.
  3. Eliminate “as” and “ing” phrases whenever possible.
  4. Read aloud. Can you hear each character’s voice?
  5. Check your tenses for consistency.
  6. Show! Show! Show! Look for instances that sound like telling. Don’t explain a scene or action.
  7. Do a search for that, very, and really. Do you need them? I didn’t think so. Get rid of them.
  8. Can you strengthen your verbs? If so, do it.
  9. Look at your printed page. Is there white space? If not, use different paragraph lengths and sentences.
  10. Don’t use quotes on interior monologues. Italics may be used sparingly.




Published by K.L. Murphy

Author of Her Sister's Death and The Detective Cancini Mysteries