Writer’s Journal: How To Keep Your Spirits Up Through The Long Cold Dark Of Editing Books

My entire project is, objectively, a mess that no one will buy. All the same, I’ll have put a year of work and thought into it this March, and I can’t let it go until I get it out of me. For me, editing is far harder than actually writing.

Here are a few techniques I use to keep my spirits up:

* Get a good night’s sleep.
* Exercise.
* Socialize.
* Caffeinate. I hit myself with some afternoon espresso for the first time in months a few days ago, and it was amazing how awesome my book became.
* Stand while writing/editing, to keep the blood flowing.
* I use rainycafe to get in the zone. Once I’m there, I might switch to some kind of happy music, set on repeat, with the volume turned town. I listened to Banga yesterday (wish I could get a better link, but it’s a rare song).
* Read books that have something in common with what you’re writing. Read books that have nothing in common with what you’re writing. Read.
* Take breaks. Walk around. For me, the pomodoro method has too many breaks, but I start getting pretty antsy after an hour. Or, like, five minutes.

Even after doing all this, I was feeling pretty down yesterday, so I have a lot more to learn.

If you’re interested in what I’m working on, here’s the long version:

I’m editing the second volume of a multi-genre trilogy. I’d put it down for a few months while I worked on the third and the first, and when I finally got around to the second again—twelve days ago—I was just astounded at how incompetent it was. It’s obvious from page one that I was just like, wouldn’t it be cool if X did Y, and that was it, for 250 pages of absurd, unbelievable, un-researched stories and characters. To paraphrase Van Jones, there was no way to polish this turd: a total rewrite was in order—after I’d told my editor, a few weeks earlier, that I’d have the whole trilogy ready for him in February.

Now, as I rewrite like a madman, I’m finding it pretty hard to get excited about the characters—apparently the only thing anyone cares about—and I’m terrified that the whole thing is just boring. I want it to be exciting, full of drama and conflict, but that shit is hard. It’s easy to just have everything work out for your main character, the pages just fly by, but that’s poison for readers.

To make things interesting you have to throw problem after problem after problem at your main characters, but that involves throwing wrenches into your mental machinery as well—you have to stop, think, get out of the zone, and then work yourself back into the zone again. Stories everyone loves are written this way: characters somehow survive slews of seemingly insurmountable problems and impossible choices, changing, reacting, growing. When you find stories like that, you know the writers have been sweating their balls/ovaries off.

After all this work, I’m 99% sure that no agent will touch it, and that when I publish to amazon the best I can hope for is a sale a day. But if I abandoned this project, it would gnaw at me forever.