This post, by Janice Gable Bashman & Kathryn Craft, originally appeared on Writer’s Digest on 3/12/13.
We’re most likely to sin when we’re at our most vulnerable—and for creative writers, there may be no more vulnerable time than the delicate (and often excruciating) process of editing our own work. Sidestep these too-common traps, and keep your story’s soul pure.
Many authors damn their efforts from the start with a premature focus on snagging a lucrative book deal. They submit to agents or self-publish before their work is truly ready. But building a career requires that you lay a strong foundation of only your best work—and nobody’s first draft is the best it can be. Careful editing is the mortar that holds the story bricks together.
Penance: Resist the temptation to convince yourself your first draft is “good enough”. If you find yourself rushing your editing process just to leap ahead to pursuing publication, look for deeper motivation to sustain you. Remember that the revision process doesn’t have to be any less enjoyable than the writing itself: You’ll be setting out to find the magic in each word, sentence, paragraph. You’ll be tapping your creative soul for ways to add tension to every page, to find clever solutions to tough story problems. Greed looks toward the uncertain rewards of tomorrow. The joys of writing are available to you today.
Just as dangerous as the temptation to call your first draft “finished” can be the tendency to jump into a revision right away. Words and ideas flood your mind; emotions pump through your heart. But that mad creative rush can become excessive, harming your ability to clearly assess your writing.
Penance: Step away from your current project as long as you can bear it — then wait an additional week. You’ll need that emotional distance before you revisit your work.
A great novel is like a gourmet meal. It must be prepared carefully, and to specification, with complementary flavors and courses.
Getting carried away and stuffing in all the good ideas and beautiful word pairings you’ve got in your pantry can lead to overindulgence.