Oh, the excitement of acquiring my manuscript back from the editor!  A few weeks ago, I received a late-night email containing numerous substantive changes and grammatical revisions required to move forward with the novel.  

What I didn’t know about the editing process is this:  You’ll make sacrifices and YOU have to do the work.  It’s like cutting off your own arm, much easier to be sedated and ask a surgeon to do the ghastly deed.  People pay handsomely for an editor to do the ugly work, but sometimes they chop off the wrong arm.

When re-writing and making those required changes, you will sacrifice more than time and energy.  You will give up parts of your story and character alterations that seem impossible.  After a few days of slogging through the editorial comments, depression inevitably sets in.  The mornings become mournings as you cut away.  “This isn’t the way I want to tell my story” and “The editor doesn’t understand my style.”  Resistance rises like a border wall, and you will hesitate to even look at your beloved novel.  It’s now deformed, obtuse and not the expected perfection. 

And that’s exactly how you should feel.  As your expectations fall away, the story becomes a novel.

Imagine spending two years writing a story, then six months re-writing, and finally being asked by someone else to slash n' burn.  Every time you sit down to edit, it’s no longer the fun, therapeutic and soulful outlet.  Editing is not writing, rather it’s a painful dismantling which chokes creativity.  And here I thought editing was supposed to soothe the rough edges, but it’s more like,

     A lozenge stuck in the throat of life,

     sucking its nectar to relieve a soreness but only leaves one gasping for air.   

I’m coming up on a month of working on the 35th version of NOT YET.  Is it done?  Not yet. 

But is it cleaner and easier to read?  Indeed.   

Self-editing is nearly impossible.  Oh, sure, you can see the little mistakes, a missed em dash here and a misplaced comma there.  We simply don’t see the errors because we’re too attached to our own work and our eyes have gone blurry from countless revisions.  I’ve been fortunate to have some great help.  J.L. at HSE (https://harvardsquareeditions.org/) has proven to be a careful reader who offers astute suggestions.  Adam D., a dear friend and writing professor, has edited all four of my manuscripts.  He tells me what works and what doesn’t, not for himself but as a reader.  He’s an honest friend but he’s not a professional copyeditor.  An editor doesn’t care about your feelings, they don’t know you or your world, and they only tell what needs to be done for the story to make sense.  And as a writer, you have to stash your ego and take most of their advice because, well, they’re right.   

Aspiring authors, listen up!   Make the changes and don’t look back, because ultimately, you are just a poor beggar at the gates of the Publishing House.  Pick your fights carefully, for too much rebellion leads to getting dropped.  Then sit back down and go through the comments one by one.  Stare at the screen until boredom overwhelms . . . and remember:   

“Be Bored, just don’t Be Distracted!”

TV, drugs, alcohol, dates with friends, time with family—everything will appear as comforting distractions from the task at hand, but boredom will serve as a fantastic motivator.  There is a romantic image of the writer escaping to a mountain cabin or seaside cabana.  Yet, us regular folks are lucky to afford an apartment or a small house with a big mortgage and can't run away to isolation.  To combat the ennui of life, we have surrounded ourselves with distractions and have little experience with idleness, because boredom equals death and anything is better than boredom—including editing your own work!