Sunday, October 16, 2011

My Love Hate Relationship with Edits

I'm a perfectionist. I can't open a document on my laptop and do a read through without making some kind of revision. Every time I read something, I want to tinker with the words or the sentence structure, or I think of something else that should be happening in the scene.

And it's not just with things I've written myself. I'm that person that is always making edits to other people's writing too. At one point, I was a teacher, and I always turned back papers covered in green ink (green, because red ink apparently can hurt people's self esteem according to our principal).

I was sure that when the time came, I would rock at edits.

This is embarrassing but true: I didn't. Like at all.

My first reaction whenever I read anyone's revisions notes was that I couldn't possibly do what they were asking. Whether it was because "it would change the entire dynamic of the book!" or just because I had no idea how to implement them, my knee jerk reaction was that I couldn't do it.

Which was weird, because I've never been an "I can't" person.

So I did a couple weird things to get through edits.

1. I waited at least two full days after reading the edit letter before opening the manuscript on my computer. I wanted to really let those edit notes sink in and be committed to them before working on it.

2. I talked (and maybe whined a little) about them a lot. Writer friends and publishing industry friends had to hear me discuss edits and why I didn't think they'd work--or maybe they would--many times. Thankfully I had a good support system of people who knew when to tell me to shut up and just get it done.

3. I made a playlist of music which I blasted during revisions--the kind of music that just isn't about to let a person fail. Like this.

4. I took things one step at a time--and I rewarded myself with every step that I accomplished. And I reminded myself when I got frustrated that writing a book is never really a one person job.


5. I realized the trick for me was to print the manuscript out and edit on paper. It was a lot of work, a lot of writing in long hand (in green ink), and then a lot of typing everything back into the document. But it allowed me to distance myself from my own words, to view them more objectively, and it guaranteed that I going over everything at least twice (once on paper and once when I typed it in), which (hopefully) meant I wasn't going to miss things.

But of course the best thing about edits, is when they're done, and you can read the first pass pages and see the words laid out like a real book.

Liz Norris briefly taught high school English and history before trading the southern California beaches and sunshine for Manhattan's recent snowpocalyptic winter. She harbors dangerous addictions to guacamole, red velvet cupcakes, sushi, and Argo Tea, fortunately not all together. Her first novel, UNRAVELING (Balzer+Bray April 2012), is the story of one girl’s fight to save her family, her world, and the one boy she never saw coming.


  1. Lux Aeterna has to be one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written. :)

    And yay, First Passes!

  2. OMG First Passes! Eeee! Also, I feel your pain ENTIRELY, Liz. Editing longhand does allow some distance, but I'm so afraid I'll pick up my finished copies and find something I want to change. So glad you made it through! **\o/**