If you’re a writer, you know how it goes: you edit until your head feels like it’s about to drop off, and then you edit some more.
It’s amazing how with each run through you find new things to cut, add or change. Usually all three.
It’s hard to let go. I understand. Boy, do I understand. But when the words from you manuscript start to look so familiar you’re pretty sure you could recite most of them in your sleep, it’s time.
It shouldn’t be this hard for you to take a break. After all, you’ve been writing, then editing madly for months. Yet, you feel your grip tighten around that precious manuscript and your nails dig in as your beta-readers or editor try to take it from you.
The editing holiday
Every writer needs one. While I’d love to suggest we all jet off to the tropical island pictured, this isn’t always possible. What is possible is giving your creativity and your brain a chance to take a break. Let. It. Go. Distract yourself with life, whether it be spending time with your family, dedicating some time to that long list of to do’s you’ve neglected during your latest manuscript, or simply kicking back and taking the time to read or watch some movies.
Most writers and editors suggest a minimum of three weeks ‘rest’ time before returning to the manuscript. This time I took six weeks after handing my manuscript over to my beta-reading team. Wow, what a difference it makes.
Stop being a writer: an editing holiday gives you the ability to be a reader
When I returned to my manuscript this week it was with fresh eyes. Not only was I spotting things I hadn’t picked up on before, I was reading as though I was a reader, not a writer. I think this aspect is key. I was discovering my characters as though I hadn’t written them. They were revealing themselves to me the way I wanted my readers to encounter them, and it’s an awesome experience. It also allows me to edit more effectively.
So, if you find yourself too close to your story, pre-empting every word, take the time to step back. If, on the other hand, you’re reading your story like it’s someone else’s, you’re on the right track.
Of course you’re going to know the plot twists and turns beforehand, that’s unavoidable. It’s when you start to allow yourself to sink into the story, relish your characters, and truly appreciate those plot twists, that you know you’ve reached it: maximum editing effectiveness.
How about you? Do you try to take a break from your story to help during the editing phase?