Monday, May 16

Monday Morning and Editing Hell

by Ava Cuvay

Happy Monday! I’m filling in for Liz today because she and Nan are headed to the Chicago Spring Fling conference later this week and will be blogging lots of fun times during their trip. Meanwhile, you’re stuck with me, and I apologize in advance for that.

Then I apologize for the ensuing angst of this post. I’m editing my book right now. And it’s Hell.

Maybe it’s just me, but editing is perhaps most emotionally debilitating processes imaginable. The first draft is the easy part… (Sorry, Margie, I’m not trying to make light of your Bix 9.0 dilemma), but I just spew words onto the page and let my characters come out and let the plot develop and let the conflict and the emotions wax and wane. It’s exhilarating. It’s exciting. It’s the beginning of a beautiful relationship. I fall in love with my characters. I fall in love with my story. Sure, I might have stumbled a bit in Chapter 15, but I can fix it later because right now I’m so in love with everything.

Writing is all sunshine and lollipops and clouds under my feet.

Then the editing process begins, and it is a death-spiral into self-loathing. Edit pass number one is the honeymoon. Yes, I’m married to my story which I was soooo in love with. And I’m still very much in love with it, even as it falls under a little bit of rose-tinted scrutiny where I change a few little things, but mostly find myself gazing at my screen, besotted with warm fuzzy feelings and simply reading my wonderful, beautiful story for long stretches.

Editing pass number two is more realistic. The honeymoon is over, but there is still a sense of hope and an it’s-okay-that-he-leaves-the-toilet-seat-up-because-we-don’t-want-to-fight-about-the-petty-things kind of partnership. A few more word choices get tweaked. Some paragraphs get moved around. Details get added and scenes get fleshed out.

Then editing gets serious. It’s the point in the marriage when most people go to counseling because the toilet seat issue is now a deal-breaker. It’s also the point in writing when writers turn to our friends for support… and wine. I have a document which lists the editing issues I need to review and correct. I take each issue one at a time, usually with the Word search function, and take a hard look at the offender to see if it is the most precise word for that instance or if I can phrase it better.
To say it is a tedious process is an understatement. It is the time in my writing when I plunge into depression and self-recrimination.

For example, I search for filter words that are unnecessary, such as “felt.” The search yields a million results, which is immediately overwhelming because my story is only 98,000 words. Then I look at each instance, kicking myself for using this word which so often “tells” instead of taking the time to write a sentence which “shows”… and I know better! And I search for unnecessary “-ly” adverbs… and I get a bajillion results. I’m so stupid! I know better. I know better than to write passive sentence structures, and yet my story is filled with them. I’m an idiot and why do I delude myself that I’m a “writer” when clearly I’m just a hack. And don’t get me started on POV glitches and misplaced modifiers because those can’t be a simple search and replace… they require yet another read-through of the story which I once loved but which is now just a tedious, thankless chore, more mundane than doing dishes and without even the sense of accomplishment that I have an empty sink when the dishes are clean. Now, all I have is a story that sucks and I’m not sure even a public flogging is good enough for me, even though I’m doing plenty of self-flogging to compensate.


The good news (if there is any while I waller in self-pity here), is that I will finish the editing and my story will be stronger for it. I will travel the editing gauntlet, and survive with a better story. At least, that’s what happened the last time. So, for all my wailing and flailing and foot stomping and gnashing of teeth, there is a light at the end of this tunnel.
So, who else is in editing hell? :-)


  1. The thing is, I've never been nearly as entertained by my own editing hell as I am by yours. What's up with that? Thanks for changing days this week!

  2. Have fun at Spring Fling!! :-)

  3. I feel your pain, Ava. When I'm in the 3rd/4th editing pass, I have to pep-talk myself into it. Or bribe myself with chocolate... :D

    1. Ooooo... chocolate! I had half a birthday cake yesterday. It helped a little bit :-)

  4. Oh, sweets! You'll make it through and the book will be amazing for all your hard work. I'm here if you need me! Oh, and thanks for switching with us--we'll have a full report on Spring Fling fun! Wish you could join us!

    1. Yes, this too shall pass... it's just the sucky part of the road to publishing :-)
      Have an awesome time at Spring Fling!