Five Stages of Editing Grief


Going through the editing process with my current novel, I’ve noticed that, like grief, editing has its own five stages. And, like grief, most of them aren’t that pleasant to go through, but it has to be done if you want a finished product. So here they are, the Five Stages of Editing Grief.

Stage One: Denial

Hey, this isn’t so bad! First time reading it, it’s got some real merit. I spent all that time writing, and look at this, I wrote, and, ahem, it’s pretty good. Well, it is that bad, it’s simply covered in the warm, fuzzy haze of denial, which lasts just until you get to the parts that you glued together with chewing gum and peanut butter. When you find them, the sharp sound of cracking denial echoes across the land.

Stage Two: Anger

Stupid manuscript. It would be be great if it wasn’t so stupid. This stage usually hits sometime around the chewing-gum-peanut-butter-sticky bits. Remember that part that you said you’d figure out later? Well, later is now, my friend. And the reality that the Plot Fairy didn’t come along while you were sleeping and wave her magic pencil to fix it can be a tad enraging.

Stage Three: Bargaining

OK, Plot Fairy. You don’t have to wave your magic pencil. Maybe just a small sprinkle of magic pencil shavings? Just the little crumby bits that get wedged into the corners of the magic pencil sharpener? When you get to this stage, you may be willing to trade just about anything–your car; your significant other; chocolate (well probably not chocolate, let’s not get carried away here)–to make that twisty sentence come straight. Oh well, that’s what the next time through is for, right?

Stage Four: Depression

Except the next time through the sentence before it and the sentence after it now seem wrong. And how did that character get there? And why is this person saying that? That makes no sense. IT MAKES NO SENSE! None of it. Why even bother to write a book? What’s the point of it all? And now I have to go through the whole manuscript again?  What good will it do? This is hard. Where’s the remote, I want to watch women with too much money, too much makeup and too much silicone say catty things to one another.

Stage Five: Acceptance

Hey, that was funny. Wait, that plot wiggle works! Yes, she would say that! That character, what a character. This feels complete and solid. No, none of the sentences catch like eye-Velcro as I’m reading them anymore. If you hang in, and you are one of the Diligent Editors, one day you will get up, and you will look at your manuscript and you will say “Hey, this isn’t so bad!” and this time, it won’t be.

Have a minute? Watch this video.

Rather read? Check out  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only) .

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7 thoughts on “Five Stages of Editing Grief

  1. Jon

    That was great, and very funny, but I think my stages might be a bit different … I think I shall list them. Or to put it another way steal your idea for a blog post. 🙂


  2. Jon

    Reblogged this on sloopjonb and commented:
    This is an interesting (and funny) take on the editing experience: I shall be posting my own thoughts on the topic at some point when I’m a bit more awake 🙂


    • So sorry you had to find out this way. Might as well rip of the bandage all at once: there are also no Character Genies; no Dialogue Unicorns; and no Structure Sprites.

      It is commonly known, however, that ghosts are highly literate as they have a lot of time with nothing to do, so it sounds like you have a very friendly ghost. Or a hostile one, depending on the comments.


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