As I was so proud to share two weeks ago -- I have a draft! After letting it rest for two weeks, however (like a cooked turkey), I have spent the last week marking it up. It is a strange experience, reading your own book with a critical eye. At one point I found myself frozen, pen hovering over the paper, about to write a note but unable to begin because I couldn't figure out how to address myself. I wanted to write, as I would have when editing somebody else's work, "you might want to switch these two paragraphs." But it seemed silly to address myself as "you." It seemed even sillier to say "I might want switch these two paragraphs." Finally I just wrote "switch these paragraphs?" and was done with it.
The larger point that particular dilemma underscores, of course, is that is fundamentally odd to switch from the role of writer to the role of editor of your own work. Words I labored over and chose carefully become words I slash and question with impatience (a favorite comment of mine is "do better!" with regard to a lazy word choice or ill-expressed thought); scenes I spent hours on, and were dear to me as I was writing them, become scenes over which I draw a gigantic X. I happen to love editing, and I've been blessed to edit some wonderful books, like Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project (which I did as a friend) and Nancy K. Miller's upcoming Breathless: An American Girl in Paris (also as a friend). And in many ways I like it no less when I am editing my own stuff. But I had to smile to myself over and over again as I barked out instructions, as it were, on nearly every page: normally when I am editing, I feel like a friend taking care of somebody else's baby for an afternoon, knowing that as soon as the baby starts crying I can hand it back to its mother to do the really heavy lifting. Because while editors point out the work that has to be done, in the end they hand the manuscript back to the author to do it. When editing one's own work, of course, every instruction to "do better" means many more hours of work for me, and nobody else but me, to carry out.
Editing can also lead to moments of humor. At some point, when two of my main characters, an older female scientist and a working mom who grow very close over the course of the book, clasped hands for something like the fifth time, I almost cried out with irritation, and wrote "There is way too much hand clasping in this book! Stop it!!" My friend Galt Niederhoffer, whose novel Love and Happiness will be published in September, told me she often simply writes "Dummy!" in the margins when she comes across a glaring mistake or a line she doesn't like. Another difference between editing your own work and somebody else's? There is no need to be anything less than blunt.
So I ask you -- how do you address yourself when you edit your own work? And what are some of the weirder moments you've had in doing it? Any humorous marginalia are welcome. I'd love to hear.