The Five Stages of Grief // writer edition

Lately I’ve been knee-deep in editing my book and wondering if everything would be easier if I just gave it up and became a cheese specialist in some remote country. My motto for most aspects of life is “Just wing it and pretend you’re right!” which as it turns out, is not a very good motto, not when you’re staring at the tangled fragments of a plot that sounded much better in your head and realizing your cast is 100% comprised of idiots.

(Which is my norm, to be honest.)

(Besides Emolas. And that one hunter guy. They’re okay.)

A general understanding of the editing process would help. Unfortunately, my rule of thumb has always been to revise obsessively while I’m writing (don’t do this, guys) and then cover my eyes and fling it into the world once the first draft is complete. (Don’t do this either.) I don’t want to edit. Editing requires Looking At It, which requires deep reserves of self-abasement and humility.

As you can imagine, this is a struggle for me, since I’m better than everyone else.

*meanwhile, the actual writing*

This is why I don’t want to look at it.

I realized, during an extended therapy session with my pillow (he’s very patient and never interrupts no matter how incoherent my screaming is), that the writing process is essentially just glorified mourning. Mourning the slow and tragic death of a muse at the hands of inferior brain skills. Writing is an eternal session of grief.

Feeling poetic, I grabbed a pen to scribble down this epiphany. And then, because I don’t know the meaning of healthy coping mechanisms, decided my pillow and I should keep going with the therapy session and work through the five stages of my editing grief. The first one seemed fairly self-explanatory:

#1: Denial

I’m better than everyone else.

#2: Anger

I looked at my pillow. My pillow looked back, sad and lumpy in the middle.

“It’s not my fault the characters won’t do what I want them to,” I said. My pillow seemed to agree, so I kept going. “It’s not my fault I wrote 90,000 words and still don’t know their motivations. How can I know if they won’t tell me? I’m an introvert. Anyway, who says they need motivation? Why can’t they just do stuff for absolutely no reason the entire book? Whoever created that rule is really stupid. I don’t like that person.”

Having come to the conclusion my problems were everyone else’s fault, I relieved my pent up stress by crumpling large sections of my manuscript and flinging them around my room.

#3: Bargaining

I don’t really have to worry about this stuff, right? This disaster of a plot will work itself out if I just keep going. It’ll be fine. I wrote a masterpiece. I’m just going to wing it and pretend I’m right.

#4: Depression

I am not right.

It’s not working itself out.

It will never work itself out.

I’m a failure. I’ve written the most horrendous piece of garbage. I need Amy March in my life to dispose of this for me. The life of a cheese specialist in a remote country would be better than my current shame. This is it, folks. I’m done. My spark has been eternally snuffed. I’ll never write another word ever again.

#5: Acceptance

As I stared into the void of my 1st draft, I finally faced the truth: I’d written something so tangled, my grandmother could crochet with it.

And you know what? It’s okay. Because this is what 1st drafts are. Tangled sweater material. Even if it is truly unsalvageable, even if I have written the worst story known to mankind, even if it deserves to be swapped out with Jo’s manuscript and incinerated by the vindictive hands of Amy March, it’s still okay. Sometimes we write bad books. Sometimes we write good ones. Either way, I’ve written a book. Regardless of whether it ever gets published, regardless of whether it rots in my garbage can, I wrote a whole book, and that’s pretty cool.

Hopefully you found this passionate diatribe enjoyable, not relatable. But if you found it relatable, take heart, my friend. We’re on a learning curve. We’ll get there one day. Just not yet.

And I still hate editing.


24 thoughts on “The Five Stages of Grief // writer edition

  1. “I need Amy March in my life to dispose of this for me.”
    Pff—what—that’s amazing.
    Oh dear, I hope your editing conundrum gets worked out. I’m a little worried to start revisions myself… so, if you have any editorial epiphanies throughout your process, could you share them so that we can all benefit from the knowledge? (Or if your pillow therapist has any insights. Those are good too.)


  2. Oh, girl, I feel you. And “an ode to the bed-head”? I know you may not like it, but that line is gonna stick with me for a looooong time. XD

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Yeah, the ode to bead-head really isn’t that bad. 😏 It’s a refreshingly original way to describe messy hair. I get that the line might not have been meant to be comic relief, but it’s a good line.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I see know that sharing that line was a dangerous move on my part. 😂

      FOR THE RECORD, guys, it’s a really dark, serious scene where a fun line like that just kills the mood. But you’ve almost convinced me to sneak it into a different, lighter scene. Who knows! Time will tell! *wiggles suspenseful eyebrows*

      Liked by 3 people

      1. You’re right. Danger danger. PUT IT IN SOMEWHERE, MISSY. We’ll be sad if you don’t. You don’t want to make your blog followers sad, do you?


  3. Relatable post! Though, my loathing of first drafts gives me motivation to get the second done 😂
    “Ode to bed-head” is a delightfully unique phrase.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. If I were a writer I wouldn’t get past stage four. I would give in and ditch writing whole books.

    I’m glad you don’t give up as easily as me.


  5. SO TRUE. Oh my goodness, Sarah, this is exactly what editing (or even reading your old writing/contemplating your plots) is…
    And I love the “ode to bed-head” line!!! XD Perhaps not in a serious scene, but I’m joining my pleas with your other blog readers that you put it somewhere. *sinks to knees with clasped hands*


  6. Very relatable! This is why I regularly read bad books…(Someone got paid for this trash!? I can write better than that!) It keeps me going.


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