On the “Joy” of Self-Editing

Self Editing CartoonIf I have to eat my own brain vomit one more time, I’m going to be sick. I’m making my final, final, “no really this is it” edits to my graphic novel after getting the proof back from the printer, and I’m just over it. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read this book. I love it and I think others will, but I’m ready to let it go.

There comes a point in self-editing when you start reading your memory of the text, rather than the text itself. This is when mistakes put the slip on you. When others find edits after the millionth read or even post-print, I calmly tell them it happens to everyone and they should let it go. When it happens to me, I fly into a blind rage.

While you should always enlist beta readers to catch these slip-ups (and even they won’t always catch them), self-editing is an unavoidable part of the writing process. It can also be the most tedious, frustrating, self-defeating part. You get to discover a new typo every read-through. You get to cringe at stuff you wrote earlier in the learning process. You have to come to terms with letting go of some of this stuff because otherwise you’ll never push anything out.

I approach self-editing with my tail between my legs after procrastinating until I can’t avoid it anymore. It’s like paying a visit to your most judgmental friend.

Here are some methods to keep your mind active and engaged while self-editing:

  • Take mini brain vacations for more intensive, fine-toothed reads. Work on other projects between editing sessions: crafting, reading, cooking, whatever helps you check out for a while.
  • Avoid distracting environments. Can you guess where I prefer to do my editing? That’s right–coffee shops. I’m far from the temptations of my pillow, and I can people-watch when my brain gets tired.
  • Adopt a different role for each read-through: your target audience, a professional proofreader, an editor, your ex. So many options!
  • Have a beverage handy. This is probably the oddest method, but I have found that I stay focused for longer periods of time when my hands have additional tasks. Since I wouldn’t recommend smoking, and perpetually eating while editing could also be unhealthy, drinking water, tea, or even coffee seems the lesser evil.

If you have your own methods for effective self-editing, do tell!