top of page

Virgin Author Ch 3 Editing: Babies & Betas



What do you mean I wasn’t amazing the first time?! The bitter truth is, everybody is awkward the first time writing. Everybody. Your mom, George R.R. Martin, everybody. Writing is as much a creative act as it is one of ego. Hey, hey! No judgement here. This is a judgement-free zone. However, I am pointing out a cold hard truth: your first time around is going to be terrible.

In Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott eloquently puts it this way, “Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something – anything- down on paper. What I’ve learned to do when I sit down to work on a shitty first draft is to quiet the voices in my head.

And if an older, more mature woman insists on it, you better do as you’re told and be grateful for it. As the old axiom says, Write first, edit later. So write first. You can’t edit what’s not there. You can’t publish what’s not there. You can’t claim that sexy sexy title of Author if your literary aspirations remain a passing daydream or a series of random social media declarations.

In a quick aside, I’d also like to point out how, technically speaking, there are three general types of writers (yes, but you’re a special snowflake…). There’s pantsers – those, like yours truly, who improvise as they go along, letting antics lead where they will until the story concludes itself. Next, there’s plotters – those who tediously outline their story first before getting down to it. And, of course, because we can’t just have things so easy as two options anymore, there’s the writer-fluids. Those who ascribe to a bit of both pantsing and plotting. You’re somewhere in there. It’s perfectly ok to do your own thing – in fact, try to embrace your own thing as much as possible. That’s because, in the end, people want to read your stuff… not a mimic of someone else.

Editing, like writing, is a tool that takes practice, skill, and merciless precision. It can be like a sledgehammer sometimes, and at others like a scalpel. Whichever end of the toy you’re using, an excellent place to begin with is a free editing app called Grammarly (And again, no, I didn’t receive payments for endorsements here… but I’m always willing to work for my money). Install it right into your computer and run your manuscript through it. Even in the free version, it’ll catch little details you’re sure to miss, even if you’re finally putting that fancy English degree to work.

Here’s another stone-cold writing truth for you: We all miss mistakes. Everyone. So especially if you’re considering indie publishing from the start, please please, for the love of God, get someone else (not your best friend or your mom) to edit your book before publishing. It’s far better to have an editor catch mistakes and provide suggested improvements then for some shnarky good-for-nothing reviewer to give it to you after it’s too late (looking at you, Gorlock-the-Martian).