Compulsive Editing Disorder

Photo credit: Nicolas Karim

I'm always astounded by how long editing an entire novel takes me. I go through peaks and valleys of editing like mad and feeling completely apathetic (or worse freaking out about the state of my manuscript, despite having edited this thing ten times!).

But it never fails. As soon as I finish one round of editing, I immediately want to start the next. Although I know that I should let it sit and come back to it in a week or so, I feel that I never think so clearly as when I have recently completed an edit, I feel as though I am never more aware of my manuscript's flaws and never more able to fix them.

Sometimes, I think I need this "warmup" (i.e. first) edit to fully understand what the purpose of my manuscript is and how I should be editing it.

I struggle with this, since most writers and teachers of writing tell you to let a manuscript "rest" before tackling a new edit. Still, I recognize a lot more flaws when I've just edited as opposed to approaching the piece after a rest.

What I really should be doing is reading my novel and making notes, refraining from line-by-line edits until a second read-through. However, I find that I am such a compulsive editor, that I'm afraid my "perfect sentence" will disappear from all time if I don't immediately edit the sentence at the time of my reading. And although there's merit in that, I admit that I often change the "perfect sentence" when I later edit.

What a second edit does for me is allow me to see my manuscript with more critical eyes, even though I can be very self-critical on a normal day. A second, immediate, edit reveals to me the Big Issues. And although I realize this is backwards from what is recommended, it's made me realize: I am a compulsive editor.

So what I am going to strive to do is to take time to skim my WIP first, look at Big Picture Issues, and then, after fixing those, go line-by-line grammatically. Avoiding fixing grammar mistakes is a difficult thing for me to even imagine, but it is my goal for the next big edit!

What are some of your goals for editing? What do you need to work on?