Avoid These Common Editing Myths

By on March 31, 2017
Avoid These Common Editing Myths - Writer's Life.org

The editing stage is a huge and crucial part of writing a book. In fact, some writers believe it is THE most important part. This is where you turn your dodgy first draft into a true work of art!

Everyone knows their first drafts aren’t perfect, let’s face it, often they are pretty dreadful. That’s why we should take great care to edit and improve our stories as much as we can.

Being a good editor takes practice. When you first start it is easy to fall into some common traps, and to believe the editing myths that can actually hinder rather than help your work.

Here are some common misconceptions about revising your work, and how to avoid them.

You should begin editing as soon as you have finished your first draft

Editing should be done only when you are actually happy with your story. The hard truth is when you have finished your first draft you’ll have to go back, tear the whole thing apart, change the structure, kill off some characters and basically start again. It’s only when you have done this a few times that you are really ready to get stuck into editing. Don’t just tweak here and there, really be brave, accept that it’s going to take time and make your manuscript the best it can be.

You shouldn’t mess it up

Don’t be scared of messing up your first draft. That’s why you wrote it. You might have a niggle that so and so scene isn’t right, or start to wonder whether a whole part of your plot is believable or necessary. It’s hard to get rid of massive parts of your book, but if you know doing so will make it better, then go for it. It might have a knock-on effect on other parts of your book, but so be it.

If someone criticises your book you should agree with them

Everyone has different opinions about literature, and often it can be down to personal taste as to whether you enjoy something or not. It’s super helpful to give initial drafts of your book to friends and colleagues for feedback, but you don’t have to take everything they say as gospel. Learn to understand the difference between notes and comments that are useful and constructive and pieces of advice that just come down to personal opinion. You then make informed decisions about what you take on board.

If someone criticises your book you should ignore them

At the same time, don’t simply ignore other people's advice, especially when you have asked for it. Try not to be too sensitive about your book and really take time to listen to people’s feedback, go over their notes in detail and put yourself in the reader's shoes. It can be very easy to get too attached to our own work and sensitive about it. Take a step back and try to be as objective as possible.

It has to be ‘perfect’ before it is done.

Lots of writers believe that they will never quite be able to get out of the editing stage, that however much they try to finish, they’ll always feel as though there is something more they can do. There are two ways to look at this. Of course, you will feel nervous and uncertain when you finally decide ‘enough is enough’ and it’s time to submit your manuscript to publishers and agents (or self-publishing depending on what’s right for you). However, you can’t hold onto it forever. Give yourself a deadline, and edit as thoroughly as you can. But once that deadline arrives simply know that you have done your best. Remember if you do get a publishing deal an editor will give you feedback on your work again, so it doesn’t have to be perfect, just as good as you can make it.

Next time you get to the editing stage of your work, make sure you don’t fall into these common traps. Avoiding them can mean editing becomes an enjoyable and exciting part of the writing process instead of something worrying and laborious!

What are your editing tips? Share them here!

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

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