Writers Have Been Believing This Lie for Decades…

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Editing. It’s often seen as the summit of the mountain after a long, tumultuous climb, complete with hand-cramps and carpal tunnel.

I have a different picture in my head. Writing, as hard as it is, is more like the packing and driving toward the first day of your climb. Writing is gathering all of your equipment, literally dotting your I’s and crossing your T’s, all the busy work. None of it’s in order, and half the time you don’t even know what the hell you’re writing. You’re just…writing.

But then you reach the last page, your last paragraph, your last word. You think you’re done. The world tells you, “You did it!” You get all sorts of accolades, you’re blinded by the paparazzi, and angels blow on trumpets as the opposite sex throws themselves at you.

But that’s a bunch of bull. I finished my YA novel back in February and I’ve been working on it nonstop ever since. Heck, I’m still editing a book I finished back in 2012.

Don’t. Be. Fooled. Editing is the first step up the towering mountain.

Both of my books look very different from their first drafts. Eighty-percent of both manuscripts look vastly different from their first-draft counterparts.

Andrew Stanton, of Pixar fame, describes editing as molding a lump of clay. Unless you’re Charles Dickens, your first draft is absolute crap and it’s a long way from being where it needs to be.

It may be what you envisioned, but oftentimes what you envision and what the world wants are two very different things. If you want to be a successful writer, you must come to terms with the ice-cold fact that at some point, it must not be your book. 

It’s fine to allow your first draft to tickle your fancies and be all you wanted, but if you want to bring your vision from bad (if we’re being honest here) to great, you must be willing to let go of it and please the masses.

That. Is what editing is all about.

That’s why I hand my manuscript to trusted people and reviewers. I need to know if I’m still heading toward the summit or if I’m free-falling in a hypo-thermal state of oblivion.

Editing, my friends, is a beast. Editing is only the beginning. But keep at it, because that’s the only way you’ll surprise yourself with what you have in you. There may be an unexpected plot twist ahead.

Published by Andrew Toy

Writer when I'm not being a husband or dad. So mostly just a husband and dad.

25 thoughts on “Writers Have Been Believing This Lie for Decades…

  1. Wise words. Editing isn’t just a process; it’s an adventure. You never know what you’ll find. I’ve published two books and have two more that were finished BEFORE I wrote the published works, and they’re still in the editing stages.

  2. Great post and I could not agree with you more. I am NOT a natural writer but try very hard to provide value-added to my readers ( all twelve of them :))))) Again, great post.

  3. And your leg is feeling……??? Editing may be a beast, but so is thrombophlebitis. We all would like to have you around, you know. Please take care of yourself, or you may be limping up the mountain instead.

  4. Your post has perfect timing. I’m sitting here with a beginner writer who’s bemoaning all the time he’s already put into his novel, not realizing how far he still has to go. I read your very true words out loud and we both were nodding in appreciation by the end. Thanks!

    1. He has no idea! Writing can take as little as a month, but editing? We’re talking years. And then some. And sometimes, even more!

  5. Reblogged this on Sharon E. Cathcart and commented:
    Yep, editing is much harder than writing. It’s why I let a manuscript sit for a while before I even consider sending it to editors, because I’ll see things I missed in the flush of “Oh, ain’t it marvelous!” that inevitably comes with finishing a first draft.

    Read on for some real words of wisdom.

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