Is the thought of editing your novel overwhelming you? by Beth Barany

This post is on thought of editing your novel overwhelming you… but first some updates.

Ezra and I are in the early stages of preparing the webinar that we will be giving in December on “Editing Your Novel.”

You can sign up to be notified when we announce the webinar date here:

We’re still narrowing down the topics. You can help us by sharing about your biggest challenges in editing your novel in this short survey here:

On to one of our frequently asked questions about editing your novel.

Q: How do I avoid feeling overwhelmed at the thought of editing my novel?

A: Ah, I hear you… Ironically, the first step to avoiding feeling overwhelmed at editing your novel is to actually feel your feelings.

We need our emotions to write strong compelling novels.

Here’s a process you can use to address the overwhelm:

I invite you to take a moment and pay attention to your breathing. No need to change it or make it any different than it is.

Where do you feel the overwhelm in your body?

Just notice and continue putting attention on your breath.

Notice the quality of your overwhelm.

  • Is it chunky? Is it prickly? Is it like a bouncing ball?
  • What does it sound like? Static? Blackboard scratching? (Sorry.)
  • What does it smell like? Acrid or peppery? (A smell I dislike!)
  • What does it look like? A scribble in black ink?
  • How about taste? Bitter? Bland?
  • What other qualities does your overwhelm contain, if anything?

There is no right answer. Only what you notice. Only your experience.

Just notice where your attention wanders and notice how the overwhelm is affecting your body.

Notice also where the overwhelm is affecting your thinking and your emotions.

Overwhelm is actually probably a mix of emotions and sensations and thoughts.

What I notice when I’m overwhelmed is that it is such a jumble that it’s like a tsunami coming at me I can’t outrun.

What is it like for you? How would you characterize the overwhelm?

Can you identify the thoughts and the feelings and the sensations in the body that are happening as you experience them?

When we slow down and pay attention to all the nuances happening inside of us, we can then start to identify different threads.

The dominant thought when I’m overwhelmed is: I can’t do this. And I suck. Why did I think I could ever edit a novel?

Then I notice tightness in my solar plexus and how I’m clenching my jaw and how between my shoulder blades it feels like there’s a tight knot.

If I’m seated I also notice how I cross my legs and hold them stiff, rigid, as if I’m trying to prop myself up against the ground.

Up to now I have not asked you to make any changes, just to observe. Now it’s time to make some changes.

You may notice that shifts are already starting to happen. Or not. That’s okay.

Now ask yourself: what would I like?

re: editing your novel

  • What would I like the editing process to be like?
  • How would I like it to feel?
  • What are the experiences I would like to have while editing?

You get to decide.

How does that feel? You get to decide how the editing process is for you.

Put some time on this right now. Let your breathing do what it does and think about how you would like to feel about the editing process.

Think about how you would like to think about yourself during the editing process and think about the experience overall.

For example, when I am feeling overwhelmed, I let myself feel the feelings and think the thoughts. Then I think about what it is that I want for myself during the moments I’m editing my novel.

I do this almost every single time I sit down to write. It’s like a training. I’m training my brain to be more and more comfortable with the editing process and since I am now editing like my 15th novel, I have a lot of practice in the process and it often goes quite quickly for me.

But it didn’t at first. And that’s okay.

This is the process to go from overwhelmed to action — the action being actually editing your novel.

When I think about what I want for myself when I sit down to edit today, I think about: excitement.

I want to feel excited about my project, and I want readers to be excited to read the book. I want to think, “I can do this.” And I want my readers to be so drawn into the story that they don’t even realize they’re reading.

I want to feel engaged and emotionally connected to my characters so that my readers will too.

I want to have my heart open.

I want to be focused.

I want to do good work in the short time I have to work on my book today.

And when I’m done editing for the day, I want to feel accomplished.

I want to feel: I did it! Fist pumped into the air, big grin on my face, a deep breath, a happy dance.

Your Turn: Think about Editing Your Novel

Paint a picture for yourself, the thoughts, feelings, the physicality, the picture like a little movie, your readers experience, all of it and any of it. Maybe you include other people in your daydream, like a high-five with your loved one, your roommate, or your cat.

You are a dreamer, a dreamer putting your dreams onto the page. You can do this. You got this.

The last part of handling overwhelm is imagining yourself having the experience that you want to have.

You may know that athletes do this. They envision themselves running the race and crossing the finish line and how it feels and how they’re doing amazingly. They trained for this. You were training for this now.

Visualize the success that you dreamed up. Feel it in your body. Feel it as you breathe.

Where do you feel the success in your body?

How do you translate visualization into action?

The simplest way to do this is to practice. Maybe you already have an editing time blocked off on your calendar. Great.


Practice experiencing your vision as you sit down, as you stare at your computer screen, as you type, be in your vision. Notice what you notice.

Real life is quite different than vision. But our job as artists is to take our vision or dream and put it into tangible form. So every moment that you get to practice that, you are doing great.

If you did not put time in your calendar today to work on your book, when can you work on your book?

  • When can you mark time on your calendar?
  • And when can you absolutely for sure show up for your work?

You can even work for just three minutes. That’s what Ezra says to himself during this busy NaNoWriMo time while he’s also working from home as a high school physics teacher.

He sets up his iPad at his writing station and he announces to me that he’s going to write for three minutes. I say yay! And then I see him stand there and get to work. Yes he has a standing writing station.

He works, he types, and then sometime later he looks up and he’s like, “Well I did more than I expected.” 🙂 He definitely did way more than his three minutes, maybe he did five, maybe he did 30.

So what’s the takeaway here today for you?

Do you experience overwhelm when you consider editing your novel?

How do you handle it? Have the tips I have shared today helped you in any way?

Let me know! I’d love to hear from you.


BETH BARANY, CREATIVITY COACH FOR WRITERSA Master NLP Practitioner and certified creativity coach for writers, Beth runs Barany School of Fiction, a full suite of courses designed to help genre fiction writers experience clarity and get writing, so they can revise and proudly publish their novels to the delight of their readers.

Based in Oakland, California, Beth Barany has presented at Ithra Center (King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture) in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, at the Women’s Fiction Festival in Matera, Italy, at Romance Writers of America National Conference, at Emerald City Conference in Seattle, Washington, at the San Francisco Writers Conference, and at San Francisco Bay Area chapters of SCBWI, CWC, and RWA.

Award-winning novelist, Beth Barany writes magical tales of romance, mystery, and adventure that empower women and girls to be the heroes of their own lives.

She is the award-winning author of Henrietta The Dragon Slayer, the acclaimed paranormal romance author of the Touchstone series, and is proud to release her newest novels, science fiction mysteries about Janey McCallister space station investigator.

The first book in the series, Into The Black, is a Page Turner Awards Finalist, and as a result, won an audiobook publishing contract.

She has also written books for writers, including Plan Your Novel Like A Pro, co-written with her husband, thriller writer Ezra Barany.


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