Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Five Ways to Motivate Yourself to Edit That Writing

Writers seem to fall into two categories when it comes to editing.  Either they struggle to produce a first draft, and then relax and edit; or they happily pound out a first draft, and then look forlornly at the fruit of their labor and wish it could edit itself.

I am in the latter category, and so I am very interested in how to stay motivated to do what I find to be the most difficult part of the writing process.  Here are a few tips that work for me, and I hope they will help others with my mindset.

1.  Learn how to edit.  This one seems like a no-brainer, but I actually had to realize this consciously at some point.  I thought I knew perfectly well how to edit, because my idea of editing was moving around a few paragraphs, cutting out a sentence or two, checking for consistency errors, and then fixing up the spelling and grammar.  Those are certainly things you do during editing, but that isn't the heart of the process.  I had to go back to the drawing board and really dive into the nature of editing.  Until I did, I had no idea how to address issues with major and minor plot arcs, how to rewrite entire sections, how to check the progression of character growth, and so much more.  The short version is, that in becoming a more skillful editor, editing has become less tedious.

2.  Rally your support network.  If you don't have people to help support your writing efforts, it is worth the time to build a network.  This might include a personal writing group in your local area, joining a writing association or society, connecting with people at local small bookstores, finding like minded people via social networks, using online writing forums, and more.  They can be there to help motivate you, just as you can be there for them.

3.  Make a schedule and set benchmarks.  Any job seems daunting when you look at the whole thing at once.  Break your editing project down into pieces.  Set reasonable deadlines for each of those pieces.  Set benchmarks so that when you reach certain points, you can go back and reassess how your plan is working, and tweak it up if necessary.

4.  When editing, don't do anything else but edit.  It's easy to get distracted if we allow ourselves to constantly multi-task.  We find ourselves texting, tweeting, checking email, seeing if we have any phone messages, eating at our desk, etc., all while we occasionally take a stab at editing.  Instead of taking that kind of a approach for a long time, take a single-task approach for a short time.  Take a twenty minute chunk and do nothing but edit.  Stay on task.  It will be easier to swallow if done in small increments, but as you develop focus, it will be more natural to just do editing, and ignore the email.

5.  Celebrate when you reach intermediate goals.  So many times we deny ourselves any celebration or congratulations until a project is utterly completed.  It is more motivating to set intermediate goals along with your long term goals, and then be sure to celebrate all of them.  Have others join in when you celebrate, and do something to mark the occasion, however small.

Well, that's five!  There are a lot of other ways you can motivate yourself to get those edits done.  What are your favorite ways to keep yourself chugging away?

Pax, all.

Image Credit:  Editing, Nic's Events, Flickr via Creative Commons, CC 2.0

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