Beyond Coffee & Chocolate: 4 Things To Remember While Editing Your Novel

As most of you know, I’ve been editing The Glass Wives for a while now, and since I’m ready to move onto the next step of the publishing process, I thought I’d share with you some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way.  I’ll be honest, this presentation came complete with sounds and narration, which I recorded and tweaked for about four hours until learning you cannot upload a PowerPoint with sound to YouTube and then put it on your blog.  Whatever.  Just imagine the sound effects. I’m sure you’ll do a better job than I did.  

The most important thing is that I’m passing along these tips, silent as they may be. 

Amy xo

No one is asking you to consider certain changes because he or she thinks those changes are going to make your novel worse – because if that’s the case, you are hanging out with the wrong people. It doesn’t matter if it’s a critique partner or a freelance editor or the editor from a New York publishing house.  Their job is to give you suggestions, ideas, and direction so that you can make your book better.  You. Nothing anyone suggests or even tweaks, changes the fact that it’s YOUR book — so go for it. Put your ego aside if it gets in the way.  Heck, tell your ego someone cares enough to want you to have a better book.

Writing a novel is serious business.  If it doesn’t pay the bills, you want it to pay the bills. You can get all caught up in I’m-a-serious-writer stuff and forget that it’s PERSONALITY, together with experience, perseverance, and talent, that enabled you to write the very book you’re editing.

And you have to admit it’s pretty funny that writers can make a living and not get out of their pajamas.  Or so I’ve heard.

I’ll be honest, I’m not very good at taking short breaks during a long editing or writing day.  But, I know that no matter ergonomically sound your chair is, no matter how the words are flowing, it’s better for your body, mind and creativity to get your butt out of the chair.  I also know that it’s counterintuitive to the Butt In Chair philosophy of most writers.  But when you do take a short break (and I am getting better at it) may I suggest you do something you want to do instead of something you have to do.  You could check Facebook, Tweet this blog post, read a magazine, watch TV, water plants, play with one or more dogs who are lying on your feet, or have a cocktail or two.  Or the last of the Cherries Garcia.

Whatever works.

Editing entails a lot of sitting and typing and sometimes actual paper shuffling, and by day’s end my eyes are fried and often, the last thing I want to do is mastermind a meal.  Granted, I can whip up glory on a plate with frozen chicken, instant rice and pre-cut broccoli, but sometimes I don’t want to exert even that effort.  So I don’t. That, my friends, is what take-out, Lean Cuisine, and boxes of cereal are for.

The point is, if there is ANYTHING AT ALL you can put on the back burner while you’re editing, even once-in-a-while, it will make space in your head and time in your day for something else. For someone else.  Perhaps you’ll watch The Bachelorette with your 17-year-old, or help your 20-year-old choose which of his 57 White Sox t-shirts to give away.

And let’s face it, no one ever really suffered because they ate a bowl of Cheerios for dinner occasionally.  Or even twice-a-week.

25 thoughts on “Beyond Coffee & Chocolate: 4 Things To Remember While Editing Your Novel

  1. It is really important to take short breaks. Checking social media is great, but I also need to get up and move around. Take a short walk, maybe do a few yoga stretches, even doing a load of laundry. Gets the circulation in my legs and brain going again. Thanks for the post.

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  2. Great post, Amy. Very insightful.

    I’d follow 1 – 3 to the letter. I’m happily married to a wonderful woman who also cooks like a chef, so I don’t have to worry about the 4th. Still, I’d recommend Kellogs Komplete instead of Cheerios. 🙂

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  3. We’re in the same place, almost exactly! I’m doing the line edits for The Wishing Hill, due out with Penguin at the same time as Glass Wives (should we tour together? I can hook you up!). The best advice here is definitely to be open-minded and to back-burner anything that is NOT what you need to do right now, which is focus on your writing. Nice post, Amy, and good luck! I can’t wait for your big debut!

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  4. And everyone thinks once you type “the end” you’re done! In so many ways, it’s just the beginning of the journey. Hope it’s a smooth ride…just bring some Cheerios in a ziplock bag, so you don’t get hungry. 2012 will be here before you know it. Hope you make it to Austin as well. Book People is our super awesome independent bookstore. All the luck…

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  5. We often have random dinner (even when I’m not editing). Cereal, yogurt, toast, fruit, nuts, salad, sometimes salad with fruit and nuts on it, whatever is relatively healthy and doesn’t need to be cooked or fussed with. Good luck with your edits – sounds like you’re working hard. I think a walk (outside or on a machine – whatever) is good for breaks.

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  6. I’m right with you, Amy. Got my Dove dark chocolate, red tea, open mind. Now, I need to get my able-bodied children to make dinner.

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