The official blog of Susan Landis-Steward, writer of whatever she likes, and co-founder of Puddletown Publishing Group

Faking Myself Out

As you may or may not know, I am an editor. I’ve been at this for nigh on 30 years, so I pretty much edit automatically. (Like menus, grocery store signs, reader boards outside porn shops. If someone can write it, I *will* edit it, at least in my mind. If I find it funny, I’ll even take a picture with my mighty phone.)

Except when it comes to my own work. I can’t just read and edit my own work. I’m way too involved and have a love/hate relationship with it. So I’ve had to figure out some ways to approach it that make me detach from it.

I used to edit from the beginning. The first two chapters of my upcoming book have been edited to the point I don’t even know what they say anymore. (Sort of like saying your own name over and over until it starts sounding funny.) The end result? I couldn’t remember how the book ended because I never got there.

Then I tried editing a few chapters at a time. While this seems obvious, again I found myself forgetting about the rest of the book in my quest to polish chapters 11 and 12.

Finally, I sat down and read the whole book in one sitting. Three times. Found lots of plot holes, some copyediting problems, and a few unclassifiable oddities. But I got too involved in the story and missed a lot of stuff. (I know, I wrote it. I should know how it turns out. But I must have some sort of filter that makes me forget. I have this same problem with my editorial work. I can read the same book several times, during several phases of production, and still find new things.) (I prefer to think of it as a filter rather than the natural progression of aging.)

So now I’m editing my book backwards. I’ve used this trick before on short stuff, and on other people’s short work, but I’ve never read a whole book from back to front. It’s an odd experience. But, so far, it seems to be working. Maybe it wouldn’t work if I didn’t know the whole story. And I don’t read it backwards word-by-word. I’m going scene-by-scene. This forces me to look at each scene as a discrete piece of writing. It’s interesting. Sometimes I find myself wondering what comes before!

Anyway, if reading your own book is wearing you down, turn it on its head. You might find it helpful.


Comments on: "Faking Myself Out" (9)

  1. Lisa Nowak said:

    Soldier on, partner.

  2. Good idea. I would never have thought of it! ☺
    I love your list on the post before this one. They are all things I would love my writing to accomplish as well.

  3. Seeing the big picture when editing my own work is the worst nightmare for him. Tiny things on word- and sentence-level writing, I can do; I know which words will sound better in which order (even if this preference changes sometimes). But seeing the big picture, and knowing if a plot has merit or is just some sad, sick residue of my readings and watchings?

    I swear to you, it gives me honest nightmares.

    Editing backwards is a trick I’ve heard but haven’t tried before, however. I will try that! Thanks for the post!

    (p.s. This is a fellow crusader, stalking you over to your lovely, lovely blog…..;)

  4. But – but – with all these other geniuses around you, why are you editing your own work? If you must, i think you have fouund an excellent approach. Somehow, editing it backwards seems so – natural. So right!

  5. I’m an editor myself and I, too, edit EVERYTHING. I even take a red pen to the books I read. Needless to say, people hate borrowing books from me. I also take photos of every misspelled and grammatically incorrect sign I come across. I’m glad to know I’m not alone. 😉

    • Susan Landis-Steward said:

      I used to send the notes my kids brought home back to the principal with the spelling and grammar errors marked in red. The school called me the “spelling cop.” I wore that badge with honor.

  6. I FIRST have to critique somebody ELSE’S work (or two) then come back to mind… then I do the read through fresh front to back to mark the plot holes and fix those… Then I edit for the grammar and crap… The only book that has gotten as far as an editor has also been read out loud… but I think your back ward thing is a good idea (AFTER fixing the plot holes (I will never believe those can be fixed unless you read it front to back, ignoring the word level errors)

    And I am a fellow Crusader/dark stuff group member… so Hi!

  7. Lisa Nowak said:

    Roxie, it’s a matter of semantics. Susan is doing the same thing you just did, revising her book. It will still be editing by two other people when she’s done.

  8. Gina Blechman said:

    That’s so interesting. With me, it’s quite the opposite. I love editing my own work and having my work edited so that I can use the new perspective to help me edit it some more. It’s when I’m editing other’s work that I start to wonder if I’m trying to put my words and ideas into their writing.

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