As I’m winding down the final edits for Moon Shine (goes live in 12 days) I thought I’d compile a list of steps my draft goes through when it becomes “done.”

1. Draft/Edit: it can feel frustrating at times but really it’s the most fun part of the process.

2. Finish Draft: then put it down for a week to let it simmer.

3. Proof-read + make notes of repetitive words.

4. Make corrections

5. Copy edit #1

6. Proof-read again + fix dialogue

7. Read draft aloud + Copy edit #2

8. Proof-read #3 + find continuity issues

9. Add to fill plot holes

10. Read aloud again

11. Take list from step 3 and use thesaurus. Use the fuck out of thesaurus.

12. Proof-read #4 fixing problems from notes taken during steps 1-11

13. Read aloud #3 + Copy edit #3

14. Give manuscript to final beta reader (Mr. J)

15. Re-read manuscript specifically focusing on using correct names/descriptions/actions/mechanics of firearms (if applicable).

16. Final read aloud

17. DONE

Note: Reading your draft aloud is the best thing you can do for editing, in my opinion. I catch so many grammatical errors and passive voice issues when I read my work aloud.

Note 2: Throughout the editing process I look for A) filter words, B) repetition, and C) passive voice

Note 3: Throughout the editing process I make notes every time I re-read the manuscript. I write down questions I have about setting changes and character development. I also write down/highlight all plot holes and anything I think is boring.

Note 4: I do not spend money on a freelance editor and copy editor. I have an MFA in Creative Writing. I do all my edits myself because I know how (feel free to argue with me in the comments if you’ve read my work) but I do use beta readers to gauge plot pacing, character development, and identify possible sensitivity issues.

Note 5: As important as it is to work consistently on your manuscript (especially if you have a deadline) it is equally important to give your book some down time. I try to take days off whenever I feel myself getting frustrated with a scene or when I feel myself over-editing. Remember, writing is supposed to be fun. You’re doing something you love, don’t burn yourself out. Also, taking breaks lets new ideas emerge and distance allows you a fresh perspective.

Self-Sabotage

According to Psychology Today, “Behavior is said to be self-sabotaging when it creates problems in our life and interferes with long-standing goals. Among the most common self-sabotaging behaviors are procrastination, self-medication with drugs or alcohol, comfort eating, and forms of self-injury such as cutting.”

Mindtools.com also says that self-sabotage includes negative thoughts, indulging in unfulfilled dreams, anger, feelings of worthlessness, and worrying about all the things in all the ways (worrying about “things that really shouldn’t matter” and “fearing that if you fail, others will think less of you.”)

As a general human being and a writer, I do (and have done) all of these things. Some of these parallel with anxiety and depression.

So how does self-sabotage relate to writing if you enjoy writing? Surely you wouldn’t keep yourself from making your deadlines, you want your deadlines, you want your drafts finished. Right? Yeah, right.

There were times when I totally knew what I was doing and that yes, I chose to binge watch 5 episodes of Dancing Queen instead of write. Voluntarily. But there were other times, like when I spent the entirety of my 20s drunk because drunk was easier than dealing with the problems. Is self-sabotage the same as negative escapism? So many parallels.

To break the cycle or cycles of self-sabotage you need to (again from Mindtools.com):

1. Recognize your behavior

2. Monitor your negative thinking

3. Challenge that thinking

4. Make self-supporting behaviors

Easier said than done!

I’m a sociologist, not a psychologist. I can’t make all the bad things go away.

But I can say that, when it comes to writing, self-sabotage is a bitch and the best thing I’ve found to do, for me, is just ignore it and push through.

Because pushing through gets the words on the page.

I was supposed to have two new novels published last year. I’m still writing them because I got in my own way last year. This year I am determined, double determined to not let that happen again.

Because the worst kind of self-sabotage I indulge in is negative thinking. I tell myself this is going to be awful and I’m going to fail. I tell myself if doesn’t matter because I’m not going to meet my deadlines anyway, so why try?

Mr. J constantly tells me to relax and stop being so hard on myself. Easier said than fucking done. And really, there’s no good reason I should be hard on myself, I’m fine, I’m not doing anything wrong. But I could later, and it could all be shit. Therefore the now should be shit too because REASONS. That’s what I deal with in my head every day.

And the best thing I can do with that negativity is ignore it, even thought it’s coming from inside me. I just tell myself to shut up and write even if what I think I’m writing is the worst kind of shit imaginable. Even if I know for a fact I won’t make my deadline, I’m going to do it anyway because I want to, because I love writing.

That takes will power and sometimes I can’t ignore the negativity and I sleep all day because napping is easier than getting drunk and facing all the bad things. But that’s okay to because when I wake up I try to write again.

I have to constantly remind myself that I LOVE this, I LOVE writing and I’m not going to fuck up something I love. The negative thoughts can’t predict the future, my negative self doesn’t have a crystal ball. And neither do I. The negative thoughts are just my imagination and they don’t mean anything.

Mr. J told me no matter what happens, as long as I keep trying, he’ll still love me.

So that’s the advice for today: no matter what, keep trying.

Be careful about being descriptive about one thing but general about another thing in the same sentence.

Specifics ground the reader in your scene.

Recently I wrote a paragraph and I gave it to Mr. J to read. He read it and said, “So you’re going to give me what kind of gun he has but you’re not going to tell me what beer he’s drinking. It’s (insert name of really fancy gun here) and just plain beer. At least say he’s drinking a stout or something.”

So I did. And it sounded better.

This week I watched a talk by Laurel K. Hamilton at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference about things that make her want to stop writing and how to overcome those things.

Watch the video here.

The things that I took away from her talk were:

1. Find what only you can write: Don’t force yourself to write in a genre or style that isn’t compatible with your voice. Know where your voice lies. She says it better than my paraphrasing but the point is, I feel, that you have your own unique story and you need to figure out how to tell it in the way that is YOU, not the way you think you need to write to make sales or the way other people think you should write.

2. If it’s a priority, DO IT: don’t make excuses for yourself like “Oh I can’t write, I have to do the dishes” (I mean, the dishes are important but if writing is MORE important don’t put writing before the dishes) of “I have to stop writing and go to bed so I can be fresh for work in the morning.” I do this all the time and I need to stop because even though earning money to pay the bills is important writing is, aside from keeping my husband and my cats alive, my top priority. I need to treat it like it is, one of the most important things in my life.

3. Treat writing like it’s a job: Even thought I’m tired I go to work, even though I don’t want to work I go to work every day. It needs to be the same with writing. Even if what I think I’m writing is crap I still need to write because I wouldn’t just show up to work and say, “hey, these emails are crap, I’m going to watch YouTube for an hour or so.”

4. Failure is only complete when you give up: Self explanatory.

So some of the things that make me stop writing are:

1. My day job: when I come home I’m tired and tell myself I can’t possibly think one more coherent thought, I need to lie down and watch Netflix. This is not how you write.

2. Not understanding my goals: some people call me an organized and well put together person, I disagree because I have no idea what I’m doing most of the time. Maybe I use organization to make order out of the chaos but unless I take some serious time to plan out where I want a book to go or what I want to accomplish by writing something and unless I’m absolutely certain about the direction I’m taking either nothing gets done or I am dissatisfied with the finished product.

Slowing down and really thinking about what I’m doing is very important and even though it takes time, I need to dedicate that time to the work.

3. Fear: I’m afraid I will never finish a draft. I’m afraid all my ideas will stay ideas and never become finished books. I’m afraid that when I finish a book I won’t think it’s good enough. I’m afraid that my husband won’t like it. I’m afraid my mom won’t like it. I’m afraid everybody will hate me. I’m afraid that no one will read my books and when I die all my stories and poems will disappear as if they were never written.

The thing you have to keep telling yourself is hard to do but you have to do it: writing is fun. You love writing. Don’t stop writing.

When you’re stuck on the beginning of your story, or stuck somewhere in the middle and you have no idea what to do or where to go, write the end. Start from the back and work your way forward.

If you have even a vague, rough idea of how you want your book to end or even if you have just a gut feeling, write it down. If you have no feelings at all, no clue whatsoever, make something up and go from there. Start at the end and work your way back. You may come up with something that will surprise you.

When you’re afraid of/reluctant to writing THE END because you think it’s not good enough or if you’re worried that your end won’t be your REAL end and you’re wasting your time, don’t think about it. Force yourself not to think about it. Or tell yourself you don’t care if you write crap.

Think about where you want your characters to end up, who you want to kill off, who you want to give the happy ending to. Then switch it up, or don’t. Do all the thought experiments. But most importantly, don’t censor yourself.

WRITE ALL THE THINGS.

Right now I’m scared that all the words are crap and even though I’m meeting my word count goals (mostly) I’m scared they’re not going to count for anything and I won’t have anything I can use for a novel after this.

GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO WRITE CRAP.

TELL YOURSELF IT DOESN’T MATTER IF IT’S BAD NOW.

YOU CAN FIX IT LATER.

IT’S OKAY TO WRITE CRAP.

STEP 1: WRITE CRAP.

STEP 2: MAKE IT BETTER.

GO WRITE. GO WRITE CRAP.

I have a habit of opening up my draft and re-reading and editing what I’ve already written before I start writing new content. It’s not a BAD habit, sometimes I need to remind myself where I left off or remind myself of the tone I was going for but then something happens where I get bogged down and by the time I get to the end of the text I lose momentum/motivation and don’t want to write anything new.

(Writing, reading, and editing poetry is very different for me.)

And then I get upset at myself because how can I ever not want to write?

I think personally when I go back and re-read something I feel like I have to make it perfect in my head before I can move on to the next part. Because if the first part isn’t 100% right how can I write the next part? Or the next?

I write in chunks and spurts, I don’t have a routine where I write every day. But the time where I wrote the most in one chunk was when I forced myself to not edit what I wrote in my previous sessions.

It’s really hard not to, but I find the results (writing more words) more rewarding than the instant gratification of “fixing” something.

Try it some time. Don’t edit. Just open up your word doc and keep going.