Infinity Edits
Contributor

            I’m currently working on editing my first novel, exciting right?! It is a glorious time where a misplaced comma or plot hole can send me into a bout of rage or deep into a tub of ice cream in a moment of intense sorrow. It’s also when I do a happy dance or call my husband in a moment of victory when I get a plot point to work out just the way a character wants or discover a new hidden secret in the story. It’s a process of ups and downs and I try to embrace them all.

            However, I discovered early on that I had a horrible habit of ‘restarting’ when I was about halfway through editing my novel after I discovered a particular issue that needed to be dealt with. I call this process Infinity Editing.

            Infinity Editing is where you get a good portion through your work and realize your time-line is off, a character name is spelled wrong, or the formatting isn’t just so (all things I have caught at a critical point), and it just has to be fixed right away. To do so, you go back to the beginning, back to the top, and begin again. Every. Single. Time.

            It’s a dangerous game to stop halfway through editing and begin again. I began to second guess things, began skimming instead of reading closely, I mean I just read over that bit a week ago, surely it is fine. Thus, the infinity edits began.

            I would catch up quickly, go another chapter, find another error, and back to the beginning I would go. On one hand, my first ten chapters are well polished, but I wasn’t making the progress I had hoped. If I want to someday make a career out of this, I need to find a way to edit effectively and efficiently.

            What is a newbie writer to do?!

            Well, I turned to my real-life job and took some skills form there. Being a support specialist and academic coach has helped me greatly in understanding motivation, patience, and perseverance. I took the mindset I would normally take when addressing a student who was facing a similar issue in their work, and coached myself.

            In this process, I cam up with five tips to help with infinity edits. As always, I will give the caveat that these tips may not work for everyone, but it never hurts to try. You can’t grow unless you try, and in my instance, I couldn’t finish my novel without stopping the infinity edits.  

           

1. Prioritization:

          It sounds easy, in theory, to be able to prioritize what needs to be done first, but it can quickly become more complicated than that. How can you determine what is worth going back to in the moment? What if it ends up just being a time sink? Perhaps these questions can help?

-Does it impact how you edit a future scene?

-Does it change the tone of the story/scene?

-Does it affect more than 1 scene?

          If you answered yes to any of those, then maybe you should go back and make some quick changes before moving on. If not, note it and move on so you can get to the next scene. Either way, definitely take a look at tip two before moving on.

 

2. Use Your Resources:

          Sounds straight forward, use all your resources that are available to you. I bet you are already doing that. But…are you using all of your resources to their full capacity? Are you using them effectively?

          Let me give you an example. I was raised on the ‘two spaces between sentences’ rule, but that’s no longer the standard. In my recent edits, I was manually changing and checking spaces between sentences and it was really slowing me down. Imagine my surprise when I realized that my word processor could fix that issue with the ‘replace’ tool! I nearly leapt for joy when a friend told me that.

          There are so many programs that have hidden fantastical functions, so take the time to acquaint yourself with them. It could be a lifesaver and a timesaver. If you don’t know if your program has that function, google it! Never underestimate the power of google. It only takes a few moments to search, and it could save you hours of work. There is nothing more crippling to motivation than feeling you aren’t making any progress.

 

3. Take Regular Breaks:

          I’m as guilty of it as the next person. If I have a Friday off at work, I go all out on editing. I make a cup (or a pot) of tea, have snacks at the ready, and off on the edit train I go. Six hours later I realize that I’m sore, my body aches, I missed lunch, and I feel it the next couple days.

          Breaks are important, not only for your body, but for your mind. Typically, I say for every hour or hour and a half on, half hour off (although I typically use this time frame for studying, it can be applied to writing as well). These breaks keep you fresh and give you a chance to get up and move around. Ingermanson and Economy (2010) stated that writing was stationary, so you had to get up and move regularly to keep your body healthy. I had never really thought of it before reading that, but it is true. If you are sick, you can’t write, so you need to take care of yourself.

          Next time you are writing or editing for a long time, take a quick break and take a walk, hop on that exercise bike, or just do a quick 5-minute workout video. You will feel energized and your mind will work better afterwards!

 

4. If You’re Unsure, Save, and Try:

          This is something I started doing after I edited a short story and realized I liked the original better…. but I didn’t have a copy of the original. RIP-Perspective. There is nothing worse than changing something and not being able to recall the original. If you are worried about that, be sure to save drafts often.

          This is especially true if you are unsure on the changes in your story or the plot. Simply save a new draft, I typically number them so I know what version they are, and make the changes in the current version. If you don’t like the changes, or they don’t work, you have the original you can change it back to later. It helps eliminate the anxiety of ‘what if’s as well as the anxiety of ‘I’m about to cut so many scenes and it terrifies me’. Don’t worry, they are still there in an older version.

 

5. Stay Positive:

          After getting my first draft back form my Beta-Reader, I saw all those notes and had a moment of panic. Was it really that bad?! Am I doomed to be an awful writer and never get anything published ever? It sounds dramatic, but I’m sure anyone who has ever written a story has felt that little rock in their gut when they have that worry. What’s worse is that little rock can keep us from reaching out to editors, sending to beta-readers, as we don’t know if the story is ‘ready’ yet.

          When you ask yourself if your first draft is perfect, remember, the answer is no. It is a first draft, so of course it’s not perfect! It’s okay, and normal, to have a first draft that needs a lot of work, that isn’t perfect yet. The first draft is to get the story out there, editing is when it becomes a masterpiece. If you think about it, the purpose of the first draft is to be a bit awkward, so embrace it!

          Stay positive and let yourself learn from your first draft. Use it as a stepping stone to learning how to think about your process, your words, your characters. It’s like a first date. If the first draft is the first date, editing is the year or so of dating, and publishing is marriage. Do you expect to get married right after a first date? Then why do you expect your first draft to be publishing ready?

 

          There they are, five tips to help you stay positive, stay on track, and keep writing through the first draft and editing process. Hopefully you found at least one of these helpful, I know they have helped me. If not, that is fine too, but don’t be afraid to try out other ideas and ways of writing as well. Good luck to you in your writing and facing off against the great ‘infinity edits’ monster. Until next time, happy writing!

 

Sources:

Ingermanson, Randall and Peter Economy. Writing Fiction for Dummies. Wiley, 2010.

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