Writing A Memoir: The Editing Cycle

Yesterday, Mom and I were enjoying a delicious pizza at Blaze restaurant when a song blared through the speakers. The lyrics said “I wanna go out, but I wanna stay home.” The song is Nobody Really Cares if You Don’t Go To The Party by Courtney Barnett.

I chuckled at the lyrics because I’ve felt the same way and thought those exact words. Sometimes we feel like we need to be everywhere other than where we are.

By the way, I’m blogging this post as a repentant writer—wannabe editor—from a remote location in publishing hell. Why am I here? I committed the cardinal sin of writing: Editing. Your own work, that is.

“You think the work stops after the book is finished…think again!”

Those are the words of my brother Dannie who has never written or published anything. Funny thing, he’s right!

I had him prematurely purchase a poorly edited version of the book, which triggered his frustration.

I’ll tell you like my college copy editor told me: You can’t edit your own work. For the simple fact that you know how it’s supposed to be written. Therefore, your mind will see the document the way you want it, not the way it is.

Here’s some advice as you make your way through the Editing Cycle:

Don’t edit as you write.

Alluring as it may seem to edit as you go, in the end, it’ll be a huge waste of time. Just write. Focus on getting your thoughts out. On numerous occasions, I completely forgot my great ideas trying to compose the perfect chapter.

Another reason why editing as you go is a bad idea—more than likely you will change or eliminate a third of your document. Editing was an absolute nightmare, but thankfully, I had overwritten. Because I didn’t keep a lot of the information —it didn’t need to be edited. Fight the temptation and wait until the end.

Writing with no restraint = more editing.

More than halfway through the book, I was depressed, angry, frustrated, and grieving. I wrote down every angry thought that crossed my mind. During my healing process, I went back and edited all the places where I cussed people out. As I changed, so did my writing. I didn’t feel the same way about people and situations at the end, like I did at the beginning. You will stop being mad. You will get over the past. You will go back and un-call your loved one a bastard. I must say the last seven chapters are the best.

Don’t rely on editing apps (including spellcheck).

I purchased a few editing programs to do the work for me. Here’s the problem: an app can’t translate expression. In one sentence, I described laying in bed under a leaky roof as “a plink” of water dropping on my forehead. That’s exactly what it sounded and felt like. Every app said it was wrong and consider revising the sentence.

The money you spend on apps like Grammarly or Hemmingway Editor, you may as well invest in a professional editor which you can find on platforms like Upwork or Freelancer.

Independent publishing.

As I navigated the Ebook publishing process, the ticker on Calibre counted 75 revisions to the document…and that was after I thought I edited the book. Mistakes were everywhere. So, I purchased a proof copy and audited each chapter page-by-page. I went through two proof copies and still found mistakes.

The more I tried to proofread, the worse my book became. I realized I didn’t have as good of grasp on the English language as I thought.  At my wits end, I swore off ever writing another book again.

Where did I get the idea that I could edit?

Just because you write better than half the people you know, means absolutely nothing in authoring. You’re not an author until the book is DONE. Being done is subjective to one’s own wallet. If you want to be taken seriously and monetize your work, know when to remove yourself from the process.

I finally gave up and hired a professional. Well, in Dannie’s frustration he paid to have it professionally edited. I let her know that I didn’t need much. Confident that it only had a few minor grammatical errors since I proofed it twice. Imagine my surprise, when I saw those red track changes on nearly every page; It looked like a literary massacre. Um, yeah, and three degrees later, I still can’t write?!

Who did she think she was? Only the best editor ever. It was such a relief letting someone else handle the hard part. I finally have a body of work I can be proud of.

Fast forward a hundred revisions—I discovered I’m just not about that editing life.

Live. Bless. Prosper.



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