Staring into Space

Have you ever sat in front of your computer to edit – not write but edit – your book? The cursor blinks and the mass of words seem like an insurmountable wall for some reason. I think most writers experience this problem.

Ever stare at your own work?

Ever stare at your own work?

I’ve been editing a lot lately and developed some approaches to the problem that I’m going to share today.

One obvious reason we writers don’t want to edit at times is that we just don’t want to do it. The creative mind – the part that burns with restless energy to create new stories – begs to be set free. But that same creative area of the brain has also written a tangled, though promising, draft. I don’t believe there is any way to escape this conundrum except to harness that energy by writing and addressing editing in a few practical ways.

1. Make a commitment  – preferably with a writer’s group of some sort – to edit. Usually you can set a goal with a group for how much you will do over the course of a month. This way you are accountable to others and hopefully you will all encourage each other. Also when making this goal, know what your daily target of pages to edit will be. Why? There will be days when you are unmotivated or busy but the attainable, minimal goal helps you keep going that day. I use the same idea when I’m running. I have a minimum mileage but I’m open to a higher goal if circumstances are advantageous. For more on goals see my tips from a previous post.

2. Survey the problem. I’ve been making additions and structural changes to my book so there are times when my mind is just overwhelmed by what needs to be changed. I know the big picture but it’s like having an air pocket in a pressure washer – nothing’s happening no matter what I do. At this point I need to identify the nuts and bolts of what I need to do and how I’m going to do it. For this kind of problem I journal. One of my other posts addresses why I journal and problem-solving is one of then (I also use it for writer’s block among other things).

3. Go fix it. But first learn what it means to fix the problems. Nat Russo wrote a great blog on fixing manuscript problems from a programmer’s perspective. It’s an excellent blog and closely parallels my topic today.

What do you do to overcome the blinking cursor and the call to move onto other projects?

Here are some shameless plugs:

Photo used in The Bow of Destiny book trailer

Photo used in The Bow of Destiny book trailer

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