When you work as an editor, you become comfortable with the process. You develop the skills, knowledge, and assurance you need to excel and do a high-quality job for your clients. But, you never entirely forget the worries that you had when you first started. These are worries I now know are common to experience when it comes to editing your writing. And let me tell you from experience—it’s much easier to edit another person’s work compared to your own. I’ve done a little research on why this is, but I think it boils down to the fact that most of the time, we are our own worst critics.
So, when it comes to self-editing, what are the issues? What are the commonly-faced worries, and how can you defeat them?
Perfectionism is possibly the ultimate worry around the editing process. When you edit, you’re supposed to correct every error, and by the end of your edit, even the most advanced editing programme shouldn’t find fault with your writing—NO!
Perfection should not be the be-all and end-all. It’s realistically impossible to be ‘perfect’ because each individual’s idea of ‘perfect’ is different. There aren’t many things that I think of as ‘perfect’; right now, all I can think of is my dog, Lula, and Ben and Jerry’s Birthday Cake ice cream! When it comes to editing, we want to correct every error, but due to being flawed human beings, it’s okay when we don’t. The aim of editing is more to boost and polish writing than completely perfect it. If I said to a client that I could always get every single error, I’d be a liar. I can’t promise that, and I won’t.
- Disconnection from your intentions
It can be easier to separate the editing process from the writing process. When you write, you think about all kinds: plot, characterisation, showing instead of telling, and using varied vocab to create beautifully vivid writing. When you edit, you think about things like grammar, flow, clarity, and consistency. If you were to self-edit, it’s easy to get so absorbed in the idea of making everything work perfectly together that you forget what your intentions were in the first place. You end up changing parts to make the flow better or the clarity stronger, which could remove the message you were sending. Tricky. But the way to get around this issue is to keep your original intentions clear in your mind. When you edit, you aren’t trying to rewrite. You want to keep the writing as close to the original as possible, so you don’t change intended messages. It’s so easy to over-think, and if you find yourself beginning to, then take a break, come back later.
This ties into the previous point well. When you find yourself getting bogged down with ensuring that your sentences have flow and clarity in a way that could lead you to rewrite and lose that original message, it’s super-important to be subjective. Separate the writing process and the editing process. Editors don’t want to change your work and remove your message and uniqueness; they want to polish and boost. Try to refrain from rewriting as much as possible.
- Ending up hating your work
I know that in the past, I was 100% my worst critic. I’d be the first one to tear myself down. I know I’m not the only one; we almost naturally seem to do it! When you edit your work, you’re taking a magnifying glass to it, you’re getting an in-depth view, and you’re thinking about every sentence you wrote. It’s not unlikely that in doing this, you could end up disliking what you’ve written, and just wanting to hide it away in a dark corner, never to see again!
Getting other people’s perspectives and believing them avoids this. If you easily judge yourself, then you could get people you trust to support you. If you’ve had beta readers or critique partners, or even just got your friend to have a look through, keep the positive comments handy, and look back over them when you’re close to giving up. Remind yourself of why you write and that it takes perseverance and strength to do it.
- Resistance to change.
I’ve mentioned the thoughts around wanting to change everything you’ve written, but what about wanting to change nothing? It’s the complete opposite to disconnecting from your intentions; it’s remaining loyal to them. Finding that sweet spot is the aim here. Editing is essential, and it’s so beneficial to your writing. You have to remember the priority of an edit isn’t to change what you’ve written and remove the intentions but to polish and boost them. You have to make some changes, yes, but your writing should retain that original message.
If you’ve decided to self-edit, I applaud you! It’s not easy, but you will learn a lot from it to apply for the future. Please remember to: be subjective, be okay with 98% perfection, and remind yourself of your intentions. Take plenty of breaks.
If you want extra support, I’d love to offer you a free resource I’ve created. I’ve done this with varying writing types in mind, but I think it’s perfect if you’re self-editing. It’s a pack of three checklists to help you stay on track and remind you of the different editing elements.
Click here to get your free pack!