Editing purgatory, or why we love to hate editing

Few people adore editing. I should qualify that. Few sane people adore editing. Have I lost any of you? 🙂

Some books roll smoothly from beginning to end. The ideas flow, the characters breathe life onto the page, and motifs combine into a meaningful conclusion. I get to the end, re-read, and whistle to myself. I wrote that? Wow! Of course I have to polish, proof-read, tighten, etc., but the essence of the story shines.

Then there are other books. My poster child for difficult books is Lighting the Way. I wrote that book in two frenetic weeks, staying up all night. The minute I’d lie down to sleep, another idea made me get up and return to the computer. I felt as if I were living with Kat and Natalie.

The revisions of Lighting the Way took eight months. Eight long, torturous, painful months. I deleted several chapters, wrote new ones, deleted the new chapters, and went back and forth with beta readers. I am proud of the finished product, but sheesh. I could have gestated a baby in that time. 🙂

The most difficult part about revising is the gap between my vision for the book and the words on the page. I know what I want, but it’s tough work forcing my written words to comply. There never seems to be a shortcut to the process. First comes elation when I see the possibility. Then feverish working around the clock, trying to make it happen. Then fatigue and downright hopelessness as the task seems overwhelming, despite my efforts. Then, ever so slightly, the tipping point at which all the hard work begins to pay off.

I’ve reached the tipping point and feel hopeful, but it’s still hard work. The neat part, though, is when an editor reaches out to you. “I know you can do better,” the editor says, and then I hunker down to prove that faith true.

The upside to living in editing purgatory is that I’m getting great ideas for Editorial Board‘s sequel. I’ve promised it for a long time (Yes, Roz, it will actually happen!), but I hope to work on it next month. Now that Spring and Rachel have decided to work together, they find themselves repeatedly butting heads. Rachel knows Spring can write better, and Spring hates being made to work. Gosh, I can’t imagine what might happen next. Can you? 😀

I hate editing, but I hate it the way a runner hates the first minutes of a run. I hate editing the way a musician hates practicing etudes. I hate editing the way an architect hates reworking sketches.

If it doesn’t hurt, it means we’re not working hard enough. If we don’t have at least some tiny loathing for the process, we’re not taking it seriously. If we jump for glee at editing, we haven’t committed ourselves to the mind-numbing, soul-crushing work of ripping up our beloved newborn.

Then, when it’s over, we rejoice.

See that manuscript? Took me eight months to beat it into shape.

And we walk away, holding our heads high because we took ourselves and our craft seriously enough to make the book our best.

9 thoughts on “Editing purgatory, or why we love to hate editing

  1. catrouble says:

    Hey Ana…so proud of you for persevering! Gotta tell ya…the end results are always excellent!

    Hugs and Blessings…


  2. pao says:

    This is quite an inspiring post 😀 Go go, Ana! You can do it! I hope you’re eating and sleeping well while working on your stories 🙂


  3. annapurna1951 says:

    I plan to buy all your books.

    You are a wonderfully gifted writer. Your voice is a delight to hear as I read your words aloud.


  4. Roz Harrison says:

    Yay Ana, a sequel! Music to my ears, you made my day:)

    I agree, this is an inspiring post. You go girl, you can do it! It may feel like editing purgatory right now, but the results will be so worth it 🙂



  5. annapurna1951 says:

    I’m one of the sick people who loves to edit, and it’s all my mother’s fault. Yeah, that’s it!

    Painfully, I still remember the time dear mother convinced me to write her mother a thank-you letter, a difficult task under most circumstances considering my grandmother disliked me and I hated her.

    Well, after crumpling up at least twenty sheets of paper, my mother, being a gifted writer of sorts, scripted, word for word, what my response should be. Even with the text in front of me, I failed miserably. I kept making too many transcription errors. Oops. So I have ADD, wandering eye, dyslexia, no spelling skills, and a speech impediment. Anyway, for two hours I tried, until I finally gave up.

    Talk about incompetent.

    Well, writing for me has only gone downhill ever since, which explains why I had to invest an inordinate amount of time, money, and energy becoming an editor. My writing limitations are also partially responsible for driving me into a lifetime of psychoanalysis!

    So for me that letter represents my first experience with editing purgatory, and I believe that I’m still there, suffering over each lousy draft I write.


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