An Inside Look at Writing: Editing (Where the Pain in Writing Takes Place)

I am still working on The Earl’s Inconvenient Wife and Her Heart’s Desire.  (The Earl’s Inconvenient Wife is now with the first proofreader.  I am done with the major portion of editing it.)  Anyway, these two books were done about the same time last month with a week variation between the two.  It’s now mid-May, and you’d think I would have completed everything I need to, but you’d be wrong to assume this.  The editor is very proficient with her job, and she had the books back to me in a short time.  The hold up is all on my end. 

It’s hard to explain how painful the editing process is for me.  Yeah, to the world, I look like I am sitting at a computer and doing nothing, but mentally, I feel like I’m running a marathon.  I have to pace myself because rushing (or sprinting) will cause me to burn out or shut down so I can’t keep going.  I can’t seem to do more than three chapters in one day.  If I do, I need to spend at least one day sleeping or watching TV to relax my mind.  It’s draining.  I’m going through and checking everything in the books while taking into considering that editor’s recommendations.  This is before the proofreaders kick in.  I had an easier time rewriting the Regency than I am editing.  The easy part is writing.  The real work is in polishing the books up. 

Back in the 8th grade, my English teacher (Mrs. Harner who was the best teacher ever) told the class the hardest part of writing is editing, and at the time, I thought she was nuts because creating the story seemed like the biggest hurdle.  And when writing was brand new to me (Mrs. Harner was the one who inspired me after I found an interest in reading thanks to Sweet Valley High books), I did focus more on establishing the story to make sure all plot points connected and did a ton of rewriting.  This was what I did in high school and college.  Thank God self-publishing wasn’t big back then because those early stories sucked.  LOL  But you got to start somewhere.

I have found the more I write, the more I get particular about polishing my work.  Granted, some people don’t think I produce quality work, but I endeavour to do better with every new book I write.  I don’t take short cuts to publish a book.  I made that mistake early on when I did fantasy and thrillers.   I even made that mistake with Todd’s Bride/Ann’s Groom (which is now Falling In Love With Her Husband), Can’t Help Falling In Love (which is now With This Ring, I Thee Dread), and Winning the Heart of Adrienne (which is now Romancing Adrienne).  I went back and rewrote all of those books, and those were all in the first year I was writing romances.  I learned the hard way how necessary it is to slow down and get the book right the first time.  A typo that slips through is easy to fix, but a book that got derailed because I refused to stop and rewrite it is a lot harder to bounce back from. 

And just so everyone knows, I try very hard to clean up typos.  I don’t like there to be any imperfections in my books, but you know, even though I have an editor and a couple of proofreaders and go through the books twice myself, there are times when one or two things slip through anyway.  It’s extremely frustrating, and I do fix it and reupload the book when I find out about it.  This is why I like being in charge of formatting my own books.  Then if I have to change something, it’s easy.  I’ve heard people have changed something in a book that was formatted by someone else and ended up screwing up the formatting.  The whole process is tricky, and this is why I agonize over all the details so I can do it all myself.

Yeah, I self-publish.  I turned down a chance to traditionally publish and I turned down two offers from authors to refer an agent my way to find a traditional publisher.  The reason I self-publish is because it’s my first choice.  I love everything about it.  I love creating my titles, my covers, my plots, and having the final say over what does or doesn’t happen in my books.  I’ve talked to several authors who felt bad about compromising their beliefs but did because it’s what the publisher wanted.  Well, that’s not for me.  I’m stubborn, and I need the books to be done my way.  And when I decided to drop querying agents and publishers back in 2009, I vowed that I would never compromise my books for anyone.  I was laughed at and ridiculed and pleaded with by others who didn’t agree with my decision.  But it’s something I wanted to do so I did.

You know, I’m a firm believer is pursuing our dreams.  I always think of the story of the person on his death bed who thinks of all the stuff he never did because he let fear hold him back.  I don’t want to be that guy.  I’d rather try and fail than never try at all.  And there will be failures along the way.  I’ve tried many things that didn’t work out.  Pen names, editing for others, co-authoring a book, the Nook blog, the story blog, and other projects that fizzled out.  But I did other things that worked.  I never thought writing romances would take off like it did.  After I wrote my first romance, I expected to go back to fantasies.  But then I got my second idea and then a third and before I knew it, I had more ideas than the time to write them.  I tried my hand at my own covers, and while the first few attempts sucked, I like where I’m at today, though I still need to tweak on how I do them.  My most notable achievement was stepping out of my comfort zone and going online to find a guy to marry back in 1999.  People called me a loser for stooping to the level where I was answering personal ads on the Internet and telling me to wait for him to magically fall into my lap.  But I ignored them and replied to (I think) thirty guys whose ads made me think they were decent enough.  (These were guys in my area.  Long distance stuff wasn’t for me.)  And in July, I’ll have been married for 12 years and have four children. 

So I say ignore the naysayers and follow your dreams.  So what if people think you’re crazy or stupid?  It’s not their life to live, and it’s not their choice to make.  Why wait for life to happen to you when you can go out there and make it happen?  Step out of the comfort zone and seek new experiences.  I can’t say all experiences are going to end well, but I’m much better for having gone through them.   There are days where I get bummed out, but that’s a normal part of the human experience.  Overall, I’m glad I’m where I’m at and wouldn’t have it any other way.  I think that’s the key to pursuing your dreams.  When you do, you feel satisfied with your life.

Okay, so I never meant to go on that tangent about pursuing one’s dreams when I started this post, but it evolved into it for some reason.  Maybe I needed to hear it to remind myself that the pain of editing is worth it in the end.  😀  Or maybe someone who is reading this is stuck between choosing two paths: one path that is comfortable and safe (but not very exciting) and another path that is scary and uncertain (but what they really want to do). 

I’ll stop rambling and go to sleep.  Maybe tomorrow, I’ll be able to complete the last chapter of Her Heart’s Desire so it can go to the the proofers.

About Ruth Ann Nordin

Ruth Ann Nordin mainly writes historical western romances and Regencies. From time to time, she branches out to other genres, but her first love is historical romance. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska with her husband and a couple of children. To find out more about her books, go to
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8 Responses to An Inside Look at Writing: Editing (Where the Pain in Writing Takes Place)

  1. Judy DV says:

    Thanks for the encouragement Ruth. It’s hard when you get my age to think there is something left to learn or do. Shoot, I don’t know that I have dreamed of doing anything…ever. Great pep talk. I personally am on some new adventures in life and it’s nice to look forward and to feel that I can learn new things, instead of feeling that all my chances in life have passed me by because I grew up thinking I wasn’t smart enough. So again, thanks for sharing!

    • I’m glad I could provide some encouragement. 😀 I think the toughest thing to do is start something we’re not familiar with.

      • Judy DV says:

        Yeah, I rather freak out an NEW! I’m kind of hard to travel with.

        • I think it’s because you want to do your best at it. The problem is some people don’t care all that much how they do. I’d rather freak out to keep me alert to better ways of doing things….even if it can be stressful. 😀

  2. lornafaith says:

    Thanks for this post Ruth:) I’m a little scared about the editing process on my 1st book…but I know I want the best book I can put out there. Will be getting an editor to look it over…so that should help:) Needed to hear your post on writing what’s on your heart …even though it might be scarier! I do believe it will be worth it in the end:) Thanks for being real and sharing your heart!

    • Even now, I get a queasy sensation when I publish another book. I always worry I didn’t do enough, and the more I’m in this thing, the pickier I’ve gotten with myself. I’m glad I started self-publishing before it caught on because there is a lot more pressure to prove yourself than there used to be. As little as three years, the big pressure was avoiding the stigma associated with self-publishing from the traditional publishing crowd. Now it’s a different atmosphere. I can understand why the whole thing is scary for you. Fortunately, there are some awesome writers who are a great source of support, and when I find out I’m not the only person who has doubts or problems when it comes to being a published author, it helps me put things in perspective so I can gather strength to continue doing what I love. This is why I’ll share my experiences from time to time. It’s my way of saying thank you to the other authors who spoke up and made me aware that I wasn’t the only one on this planet going through my problem at the moment. 😀

  3. Wow, you really put yourself out there with this post. But that’s a good thing. I like to see what’s going on in the hearts and minds of fellow authors sometimes, especially when some of it matching the way I feel.

    I don’t like editing, either. One of the hardest things for me is deciding whether I’m right or a beta reader is right about something. I end up waffling back and forth, but in the end, I let my gut feeling prevail. Of course, then I wonder if I should have taken their advice. LOL

    I’m glad you went on the tangent. I believe in following your dreams. I was never approached by an agent or publisher, but I decided I wanted to self published even before the ebook craze happened. That’s why I used a vanity press…that’s really all that was available at the time. I self publish because I like the control of when I write, what I write, what my cover looks like, etc. And it’s nice to be able to release when I want to instead of on someone else’s schedule.

    • Once in a while, I like to show the more personal side to how I approach writing. So much has been going on in my mind over the past month, and most of it is self-doubts. Going into a new genre is both exciting and terrifying at the same time, and I did so much editing on that Regency that my head is still spinning. I always feel a sense of stage fright when I publish a book because I always worry about that one thing or two I missed or if I could have worded something better? But in the end, I have to remember that nothing is ever truly perfect.

      I know what you mean about going back and forth on what you feel is best for the book and what the beta reader says. I struggle hard on this one and second guess myself a lot right after the book is published. So you’re not the only one. 😀

      I haven’t been approached by agents, but I will say the publishers were small ones so it’s not like a big New York publisher made me some astonishing offer that would wow many. LOL I know this seems to be a dream for a lot of authors, but my big dream is to be able to keep self-publishing books I love writing. I couldn’t imagine having to go by someone else’s timeline or a publisher’s idea for a book. I talked to a Harlequin author once who said she loved it when Harlequin told her the synopsis of the book they wanted her to write because that meant she didn’t have to go through the process of trying to come up with one they’d want. If I had to write according to someone else’s ideas, my writing would suffer because I’d lose all the fun in it.

      Yep, I’m just like you in why I self-publish. So really, we were “cool” ahead of our time, right? LOL

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