Swoon Author Tiffany Pitcock's Editing Update: From Fear to Freedom
I have a confession to make, one that shames me as both an author and an English major: I hate editing. I hate reading my own writing. I hate having my mistakes pointed out to me. You know that college senior meme that says “Rough draft? You mean final draft”? That was me up until I started working with Swoon Reads. I never read through or edited my papers. I’m sure all my professors hated me because I wouldn’t read their comments on my stuff. It felt like being scolded, and I hate to be scolded.
So, naturally, going into the editing phase was all new territory for me. To make it doubly challenging, Just Friends required a lot of edits. Actually, it’s pretty much a completely different (and, in my opinion, better) book than the one that was posted on the site. As someone who always felt editing was like having all my mistakes pointed out, hearing that they thought my book would be better with some major changes was hard. It took me a while to stop viewing it as “You’re not good enough” and see that they believed in both my ability and my story and just wanted to help me make it better. I had to learn to distance myself from my work. Criticism of my writing is not criticism of me personally. It helps that my fabulous editor Holly was there through everything and always very clear on what she wanted from me.
So that summer I restarted Just Friends, rebuilt it from the ground up. The characters are the same and some of the scenes, but it mostly is a new story. A better story. At first, I was terrified, what if I couldn’t do it? I had written the original version of the book nearly two years before, what if I had lost touch with the characters? There were also parts of the original story that I absolutely loved, and a lot of it ended up being cut. It was really hard and, honestly, I cried a lot. There were times where I looked at this new story and felt so disconnected from it that I didn’t even care about it at all. I was pretty sure it was the worst thing I’d ever written until I got about halfway through and decided to do something I’d never done before: read my story before I finished it. I reread what I had written, and it turns out that it wasn’t the worst thing ever. In fact, I kind of really liked it. It was like the sun had finally come out and I realized how to make the book work again. I hadn’t lost the characters, I had defined them. I remember sitting at the kitchen table of my old apartment, staring down at the pages in front of me, and thinking “Hey, I can actually do this.”
Editing became a lot easier after that. Not only for my book but for my school work as well. I started actually listening to criticism because it turns out I wasn’t being scolded. I was being helped. The writing process became much easier (I got better grades on my papers too), and I actually enjoyed writing again. For the longest time editing was this thing looming over me and now it’s not. It’s actually freeing. For the longest time I thought my fear of editing would prevent me from ever being an author, but now I know that when faced with criticism I will listen and adapt. Yes, I admit that when I get my manuscript back, and a line is highlighted my first instinct is to think “Why was I stupid enough to think that was a good thing to write?” but then I push past that and ask myself why doesn’t it fit and how can I make it better.