Editing – Time for the Next Step

Editing. It can be a never ending cycle for an author. It’s so easy to find items that you’d like to change with every pass. It’s hard to know when you’ve done enough … and when you’ve done too much. That last statement might seem impossible but I’ve done it with a book. I edited it so much that not only did I get tired of the story, but after following all the ‘rules’ and ‘guidelines’ that I read on message boards, email loops, and in how-to books, the unique element of the story … the voice … was written out of the book. After all that editing, the heart of the story vanished and I was left with a bunch of words and characters who didn’t mean anything to me. I edited ‘myself’ right out of the book. If the characters no longer spoke to me, how could I expect them to speak to anyone else?

That book has took up space on my computer for years. No longer the book it once was and not the book I ever wanted it to be. I have tried to turn it into what I envisioned and first imagined, but with all the prior changes, the characters and story have become a muddled mess in my mind and on the page. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to put it into shape. The experience has been frustrating. Annoying. Maddening. Disheartening. I try not to think about the years I spent trying to make the story ‘right’ based on so much advice and landed up making the story wrong.

Sometimes, prolonging (self)editing can be a way to procrastinate. I find myself leaning toward that situation right now with a book. I’m excited about the story. The characters. I’ve had it professionally edited and proofread and know the story is solid. Any big issues have been worked out, inconsistencies addressed, and a character now has one name instead of two (two wouldn’t be too bad if it was part of the plot but for some reason I renamed him). As I’m going through it one more time before formatting to publish, I find doubts creeping in. A voice telling me to wait, go through the book one more time. Maybe, just maybe, I need to change something else.  Does that character really belong? Should I add in another? Is the conflict high stakes enough? Did I catch all the typos? And on, and on, and on…

I know the biggest issue holding me back is fear. Right now there is the dream that the book will do well. A hopeful voice saying readers will love it. Good (okay, great) reviews will come in. To be proud of what I accomplished. But … what if reality is different? There is a great chance it will be. Then what will I be left with? Was I wrong in thinking I could put this book out myself? Would I have done better to wait? Would it have better to just leave the book in the past and continue on with new projects?

I answered no to that question a few months ago when I hired an editor that helped find the places where what I thought I wrote wasn’t quite what I did write, hired a cover designer and now have an awesome cover to give a ‘face’ to the book. But, now that the time to hit ‘publish’ draws near, the nerves are getting to me. Thankfully, I have already paid for the editing and the cover as it’s now an incentive for me to continue moving forward, to ignore those doubts and finish the job.

Next item on the list. Formatting. Maybe this is another reason I’m stuck in the land of editing. I’m terrified of venturing into Formatting Land. I have quite a few sites bookmarked, a few books on my Kindle that promise me formatting will be a breeze. I guess I should keep in mind that I find myself hopelessly lost, I can always hire a guide … aka a formatter to get me through this step of the process.

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