You type “The End” or “To Be Continued” on the final page of your manuscript and then scream and dance, pour yourself a glass of wine, reward yourself with a pretty new notebook, a nice dinner, or splurge on a bookish item you’ve been eyeing. You feel on top of the world and can’t wait to send it to beta readers, query a literary agent, or post your book for sale on Amazon KDP after editing.
“This is amazing,” you think, updating your social media. “I am a writer and will be an author soon!”
But once you return to edit your glittering novel after some days and weeks away from it, you see the manuscript in a different light, like a wrinkled dress in the back of your closet or that old pair of sneakers you can’t part with because of the miles and memories but dare not wear anymore.
A harsh thought whispers in your head: Your book is awful, you are a terrible writer, and you should stop now before the world sees through you and this mess you’ve written.
That is the imposter syndrome monster rearing its sinister head to thwart your editing process, whisper ill-words to you, and make you lose faith in your writing and yourself.
So how do we as writers battle imposter syndrome during editing?
1. Positive affirmation: Remind yourself of your writing successes and accomplishments thus far, to include drafting a complete novel start to finish. Say it aloud, write it on your vision board, or in your writing journal. For myself, I use color-coded sticky notes on the wall in front of my computer for plotting, editing, and positive affirmation. Every time the imposter syndrome starts whispering, repeat or read your positive affirmation. With practice, it will change your thinking patterns to more positive thoughts rather than harsh critique.
2. Non-linear editing: If you are stuck on editing one part of your story, move ahead or revisit an earlier scene to work on instead. Sometimes the break and distraction from the difficult passage will make sense after your brain is actively engaged in something else. Plus, there’s often the added bonus of realizing that you need to foreshadow or story plant something better or raise the stakes sooner in the book.
For example, you move from Chapter 7 in the first act to Chapter 32 in the third act and realize that the critical item or plot twist element (I like to refer to it as the shark repellent Bat spray in reference to the 1966 Batman movie) was never introduced until the hero needed it the most. Now, a few edits later, your story is stronger and you can revisit the tougher scene, feeling more confident about your abilities as a writer. *cue the imposter syndrome monster retreating into the shadows*
3. Wield the imposter syndrome to your advantage: You might be thinking, “Wait, didn’t you just teach me how to repel the vile creature while editing?” Yes, and now I am empowering you to lean into the whispers of self-doubt and snark and wield them for your benefit. Sometimes the imposter syndrome can come from subconsciously knowing that a story element is not working in your novel but being unable to pin down exactly what.
You can turn the whisperings on their head and use it to your advantage through restructuring the doubt into constructive editing questions.
Turn “no one will like your main character” into “how can I improve my MC’s likeability or make them more relatable as a person?”
Turn “my book is boring, readers will give it one star on Amazon and Goodreads!” into “how can I raise the stakes and tension during the middle of the book to prevent the proverbial ‘sagging in the middle’”
Turn “there’s not enough/too much language/adult content/heavy themes and I will be criticized for it” into “I know my target audience and the appropriate expectations for this genre(s), I do not care if a YA Thriller reviewer does not care for my Adult Fantasy Romance novel.”
With these three editing superpowers in your writer’s toolkit, you will be able to identify and halt the sneaky whisperings of the imposter syndrome monster before it thwarts your editing and writing journey.
Give yourself grace and permission to take a break from a project, connect with fellow writers in the community, or ask for help! As writers, we all experience shared difficulties and hurdles in our writing and editing journey and can often offer advice or support along the way. Take care of yourself and enjoy the journey as much as possible!
Bonus: If the imposter syndrome monster is still getting you down, play your favorite upbeat music and take a 10-minute break from editing to dance it out and smile.
Meet K. T. Sharp
K. T. Sharp is a young adult science fiction author and member of SCBWI. When she is not lost in a book, she can be found hiking, playing video games, tinkering in the kitchen with new recipes, dancing, or shopping second-hand fashion. "Isolation, Part I of The War for Rath" is her debut novel with the sequel (currently under edits) coming in 2022. You can connect with her on Goodreads and on Instagram @katereadsalot_