What It’s Like to Edit Your Own Book

For the last few weeks I’ve been very slowly but surely editing my hopefully-soon-to-be-published-and-successful book, which is the first in a (hopefully) long series of fantasy. And honestly, from the alcoves of my heart and the nooks my mind, there is nothing harder, nothing more self-destructive and debilitating than editing your own book.

Me, whenever I open Word.

It’s just terribly difficult to read your own work and edit it. First of all, I’ve always wanted to be a writer. From the Nancy Drews and Hardy Boys my dad would buy me to read on long drives, to the first time I ever opened a Harry Potter book as a young boy, I just knew that I wanted to do something like this. But I never believed in myself – why should I? Thousands of people write stuff. Go to any site like fanfiction.net or any sister sites and you can see thousands upon thousands of stories, all written by a person who had the same hopes and dreams as I, the same wishes and… the same everything. As a person who doesn’t like wasting his time, why should I pursue a path that millions have failed at? There’s nothing special about me.

But I just changed my mind one day and decided to log out of the video games and just write. I wrote everyday. I wrote until my fingers bled off. I wrote when I didn’t feel like it, because I knew that waiting for inspiration was bullshit. I wrote when I had headaches and I wrote when I’d want nothing other than to stop writing. And eventually, after tens of thousands of words and countless nights spent creating a world out of thin air, I made it.

And I’m proud of it. So proud that I’ve decided that I’m going to edit it, brush it up, make sure it’s as amazing as I can possibly make it, and send manuscripts out. What I didn’t realize was, however, the path of utter self-hatred I would have to embark on as soon as I thought I was “done”.

Editing is like a worse version of dieting. Dieters wake up every morning, look in the mirror, and remind themselves, “You’re a fat ass, and no, you can’t have that chocolate muffin.” If editing was dieting, then a person would instead wake up every morning, look in the mirror, smash his face in the mirror, and then proceed to cut his fat off with the shards of broken glass. (And I think I’d prefer this – at least then I’d only have to do it once before they send me to the mental institute.)

They tie your hands so you can’t type.

With self-editing, you have to look at your own work, the stuff you spent months of work on, and you have to crap on it. You have to hate it. You have to see every error, every little tiny mistake and every word that makes you feel like a pretentious douche, and you have to fix it. You start to wonder, “did I really write this? How the hell was I so bad?” And when you start to wonder that, you question the validity of your decision to ever start writing in the first place.

But, in an effort to not make this post longer than it already is, I’m still going somewhat strong with the editing. Every now and then I edit something that makes me forget I’m not even old enough legally drink, and I really just have to smile. I smile because it makes me believe that maybe my dreams will come true someday – to work from home, writing the 3rd or 4th book in my fantasy series, and just to know, some people actually like my writing. I think that’s all I really want, to inspire some kids the way other authors inspired me.

“With only the stars by his side, he wondered what they were, and why they shone every night. He wondered if the sky stretched as long as the ground below it, or if maybe, there was a corner of land somewhere that had no sky or stars, and he wondered what that place was like.”

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6 thoughts on “What It’s Like to Edit Your Own Book

  1. Actually, here, maybe I can be helpful. After reading your article about stress on Cracked and forwarding it to my cousin and a coworker whom I share an open layout office with, I followed your link to your blog and have been reading with great interest because I just finished writing a fantasy novella for emergent readers (target audience: my 8 year old son who likes to play with Nerf Swords a lot; not in a magic treehouse …) and am butt-deep in the editing process. And it is hard work. It’s not even writing—it’s like working a mind numbing job at a toll booth that _you don’t even get paid for_.

    But hey, I actually read your ENTIRE Cracked article and a bunch of posts on your blog because they’re interesting and most importantly worth my time and hope that you continue.

    • You don’t know how much I appreciate that. It’s a strange but nice feeling to know that there are people out there reading my stuff, and it does help, so thanks.

      I’m glad you could relate with my editing woes, it really does suck sometimes. But, it’s nice having something to be proud of when you’re done. Hopefully both of us are successful with our editing!

  2. I have been reading all of your work religiously and honestly admire you so much. You’re somehow both an amazing and modest writer which is one of the most difficult things to find. You don’t try so hard to throw your work into your audience’s face or write based on what society gives more attention to “add a teen sex scene there, blood and guts here, spoiled brats faced with predicaments on the side”. Instead you just write from who you are, what you’ve lived and what you’re passionate about communicating to other people. It’s really an amazing thing you’re doing, and if you think of it as anything less you’re blind.

  3. I too read your Cracked article and noticed it was tighter and funnier than what I’m used to reading there. I was compelled to click on your name which led me here and after reading this entry I have to say yes, you’ve got the thing, the writerly instinct for choosing the right words and stringing them together which makes the stuff you write a total pleasure to read. I don’t even _like_ fantasy because I’m a pompous lit major and I still want to read your book when it’s done. So yeah…you’re totally on the right track. Keep that shit up.

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