I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Guest Post by Michelle Lim: Editing Paralysis

Today we welcome Michelle Lim, a writing friend and My Book Therapy's (MBT) brainstormer extraordinaire, to the MBT Ponderers blog. Michelle and I (Beth) had an interesting conversation about what she calls "Editing Paralysis," and I asked her to share her insights with the Ponderers and friends.

Every new mom starts out believing one thing is absolutely certain: Her baby is perfect in every way. But sometime before the child's second birthday, mom admits that the halo is slightly tarnished.

Our novels follow a similar pattern. It's love at first draft, but somewhere along the journey we realize that our work-in-progress (WIP) has flaws. Some faults are so crippling that, without major editing, our stories will never be published.

Did you just break out in hives at the thought of editing your novel? We have a lot in common. I struggle with a serious condition called "Editing Paralysis," or EP. I know changes need to happen, but I don't know how to make the changes.

All is not lost for those of us suffering from EP. How can we overcame this condition? We need a system for edits like plotters need copious outlines before sitting down at the keyboard.

  • Lay a foundation of prayer. Prayer is the most important first step to prepare to edit your WIP. Scripture talks about the refining work of God in our lives (Zechariah 13:9), now it's time to use that refining work in our novels. Once you are spiritually ready, sit down with a sense of purpose for God's excellence.
  • Un-layer your edits. It's easy to panic when overwhelmed with the process of editing an entire manuscript. Think of editing in layers. Create checklists for structural edits (the foundational elements of any novel) and for individual scene edits. For each scene, go through only one checklist point at a time. Tiny step by tiny step will make the process less daunting.
  • Recognize your weaknesses. As you continue to edit, you'll discover that you repeat mistakes. Make future editing easier by learning how to avoid those errors, applying what you've learned to your next manuscript.
  • Learn from someone else's expertise. Find a critique buddy who will give you feedback. You get added clarity when someone else looks at your work. Sometimes it's easier to correct things someone else sees than to identify your own mistakes. 
EP can be overcome and, even though your rough draft is tarnished with flaws, you can polish it to publication.

What about you? Do you love editing your story--or loathe it? Have you created any checklists to guide you?


  1. Great post, Michelle. Editing. Except for having to read my ms one.more.time. I really like the editing process. Don't think I've ever read a word or scene I couldn't lop off. (of course I stick it in a file somewhere incase I find the perfect spot for it. lol)
    Thanks for good, concrete tips to edit for!

  2. Michelle, we should totally co-write a book! I LOVE revising, but suffer from first draft fear. So...you could write the first draft and I can do revisions. Awesome. :) But seriously, great post. Love your first bullet point, especially, about laying a foundation of prayer. That's wisdom in action!

  3. Great post, Michelle!! So glad to see you here on the Ponderers! Most of the time editing is not an issue for me. I love that part of the writing process. Lately, though, I've been struggling with getting the last few chapters of my second book finished. Your suggestions are so timely and very helpful. I love my critique partner. Her extra set of eyes and willingness to nudge me to dig deeper have helped me to create heartwarming characters...or so I hope.

  4. Thanks for joining us today, Michelle! I appreciate your insights & your positive attitude about EP.
    The suggestion to un-layer your edits is so, so smart. Too often writers can want to edit everything at once. Then we end up missing stuff.

  5. Thanks! Your editing buddy feels the same way about you Lisa!

    I laugh when I see two names on a cover and sometimes think just like you Melissa. You editing pros amaze me!

  6. Great post today, ladies! Michelle, I loved hearing your fun voice in here, as well as the practical tips. They make a lot of sense. I lvoe how we can find those whose strengths can help us in our weak areas. I also appreciated the reminder of having a solid foundation built on prayer to help in our writing. So good to see you here, Michelle!

  7. Thanks Jeanne! Sometimes Prayer is the glue that holds the editing checklist together and sometimes it is just plain the glue that holds me together.

  8. I'm with Melissa. I love revising and dread first drafts. No doubt that's because of the perfectionist in me. LOL! I look at the dreck I've splashed on the page and cringe. The thing that gives me hope is that edits are coming, and I know I can make the story better.

    I feel for those who suffer from EP and wish I could share some of my editing enthusiasm with you. Michelle's tips are great and should help those who have dealt with the dreaded editing phase, though.

  9. If I ever form an EP support group I will know where to look!It is so amazing to find all of you great editors. I applaud you!

    For those of us struggling with EP..one Bible verse of great comfort is, Psalm 119:96, "To all perfection I see a limit; but your commands are boundless." There is an end to editing.

    Thanks for all of the words of encouragement to us EP challenged authors.

  10. Michelle, thank you for your encouragement and clarity when it comes to EP! I am one of those that suffer from it. In the past two weeks I feel I have gained 10 pounds as I cook and eat and seem to do all I can to avoid looking at my script. The thought of it truly paralyzes me!

    I thought you gave such great advice and am now I am excited to face it again, pray beforehan, and take it one step at a time. You are such a blessing and a light! Thank you for sharing such great wisdom!

  11. Thank you Sarah! I can empathize with your feelings about editing...Stick with it...and try the buddy system. We all need each other in this industry.

  12. Great post, Michelle! And wonderful advice. I too suffer from bouts of EP. Some days are easier than others, but for the most part I dread it. I stick with it though.

  13. Thanks Jeannie! The only way to face edits is head on! Keep it up!

  14. Great post, Michelle! Thanks so much for sharing your tips. I'm somewhat challenged with EP. But I've had enough kids that I know my babies aren't all darlings. I've learned to kill chapters that I totally loved because they weren't moving the story forward. But, like Pat, I've got them stashed away in hopes that I find a place for them some day.

  15. Roxanne, I have one of those stash files on my computer, too. Amazing what a safe hiding place can do for the writer's editing angst! Great tip!

  16. Thanks for the encouragement! When I remember how it felt to edit my last novel (which was also my first novel)I picture the dentist's office for some reason. Now that I'm working on my second novel, I'm over 20,000 words in and have realized a major problem. Ah, I think I have EP! I don't want to deal with it. Instead I play on Facebook and email people.

    Thanks for your suggestions. I'd better go conquer that issue! :)

  17. Ruth Schmeckpeper6/11/11, 4:44 PM

    Michelle, Great post! I find it encouraging that I am not alone with my EP issues. You are so right to direct us back to prayer. I love the analogy of editing our novels being like God refining us. How true!