Writing a novel may be hard work but it’s nothing compared to the gruelling task of editing…at least that’s my experience.

You see it’s possible to get on with the task of drafting a novel, even on days when the  up, you can just keep at it. If you just write, the words slowly add up and eventually you will reach your goal.

The beauty of the drafting process is that you don’t have to overanalyse your words. Most of the time, I can get in the flow and not think too much about the words I’m using.

The most important thing is just getting the words down.

When drafting a novel, I focus on having discipline and word count targets. This may not work for everyone but it does for me and ensures I stay motivated. Setting myself tangible goals, that relate to nothing else other than word counts, means I can make positive progress.

As a result, I find that completing the first draft of a novel is relatively pain-free, and dare I say it, enjoyable! – I knew there was a reason writers put themselves through this torture on a regular basis.

Things though quickly unravel when I get to the first edit or revision of my novel.

At this point, things become a little less tangible. The first edit isn’t about picking up typos and formatting errors, it’s about much more subjective components.

I have to look at my work critically and ask whether the structure, story and characters work, as well as, many other potentially soul-destroying questions.

My Own Worst Critic

Reviewing your own work requires you to embrace your inner critic, but what if you’re too critical of your writing?

If you’re anything like me, you may be your own worst critic and this can send you on a rollercoaster of emotions.

The typical editing process means you can experience any or all of the following on any given day:

  • Imposter syndrome – “I’m not a proper writer, who was I kidding?”, ” I’m a fraud”.
  • Second guessing – “should I change that?”, “I’ll just change that back”, “Was the original version better?”.
  • Negative self-talk – “I can’t believe I wrote this rubbish”, “What was I thinking?”, “I’m not good at this”, “I might as well give up now”.

Occasionally I do have moments, and sometimes days, when I feel like I’m ‘winning’ at editing. I may come across a section of prose that I may not even recall writing and I marvel at it, believing that I may actually be okay at this fiction-writing gig.

Unfortunately though the times I feel like the cat’s pyjamas and am convinced I could be the next JK Rowling, are few and far between.

All too often I feel paralysed and have multiple crises of faith when it comes to editing my novel.

When You Just Can’t

After a lot of trial and error, procrastination and excuses, I’ve found one thing that keeps my editing on track. It’s ‘Ganbatte’.

I’m a self-confessed Japanophile, having lived there for a couple of years, and I have a go-to list of Japanese words that inspire me.

‘Ganbatte’ is one of my favourites. It roughly translates as: keep at it, do your best, don’t give up and work hard.

Japanese often use the phrase ‘Ganbatte kudasai (please)’ in the same way we would wish a person good luck before an exam or performance.

Ganbatte though is less about luck and more about tenacity. As a culture, Japanese value effort and perseverance and this is a quality that I remind myself to embrace whenever I hit upon a difficult editing phase.

Just when I think I can’t keep going with my editing, or there’s no point in trying, I channel the Japanese warrior in me – yes I like to think there’s a little samurai in all us writers –  and tell myself ‘Ganbatte!’.

You never know, it may work for you too. ‘Ganbatte kudasai!’

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