Friday, June 29, 2012

The Edit Cave

by Mindy McGinnis

I've heard a lot of people talk about the Edit Cave, as if it were some secret hideout that writers can go to with fancy butlers who bring us our soup and neat gadgets to distract us with when we need it.

I wish.

Well, besides the fancy gadgets (can you hear me, Twitter?) I totally want a dark cave I can crawl into, dragging my edit letter and brick of an ms with me. It'd be lit only by my laptop screen, and I'd have lidless eyes and extra appendages when I crawled back out. But I'd have my solitude, I'd hit my deadline, and there would be nothing from reality to slide into my time and demand my attention.

But... just try going to Google Maps and typing in "Edit Cave." It doesn't exist. Unfortunately there isn't anyplace we can go for this magical dark place of alone time where our brains are free to exist only in the worlds we've created. Reality is a bitch, and a really high-maintenance one that demands a lot of face-time.

If I had my way I'd eat MRE's and not bathe while in the metaphorical edit cave, but that's not the case. The real world needs me to be responsible and be a good citizen, go to the pool and the ice cream festival, the student graduations and family birthday parties. Instead of the blank "I left the stove on" stare, I tend to have the "I left that character mid-scene" look. It's pretty hard to spot unless you're another writer.

So what do I do? My edit cave is only open during the hours of 10 PM to However-Long-I-Choose-To-Punish-Myself AM. In a way, it really is a dark fortress of solitude, as you tend to loose daylight during that time. While at first I thought I would hate only allowing myself these stolen hours, I soon figured out it's what works for me, and my brain has adjusted.

Yes, I'm sleep deprived. Yes, I'm not the earliest riser. Yes, I tend to be a bit grumpy anytime before noon on the days following Edit-Cave-Isolation. But the revision is going well - ahead of schedule, in fact - and I'm well on my way to becoming one of those people who thanks their editor for making their story stronger in the acknowledgements.

I still wouldn't mind a butler.

Mindy McGinnis is the author of NOT A DROP TO DRINK, a YA dystopian coming from Katherine Tegen / Harper Collins Fall, 2013. You can find her at her blog, Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire, Twitter and Facebook.


  1. Struggling with exactly the same issue for novel two. In the midst of a family crisis this summer, it's been more or less impossible to bounce back and forth between my real life and my characters' world. I need a WIP cave!

  2. My edit cave is only open during the hours of 10 PM to However-Long-I-Choose-To-Punish-Myself AM.

    THIS IS MY LIFE. Oh god, I am so looking forward to finally handing in this draft, and being able to get to bed before 1:30am.

    Fortunately, having a (real) baby last year has proven to be excellent training for editing my book-baby. 5 and a half hours sleep per night still feels positively luxurious...

  3. Barbara - I know it! Seriously this would be real estate gold.

    Helen - That's spot-on. It's like having a puppy is practice for a baby, having a baby is practice for revisions :)

  4. I can't edit well in the evening. So forget the butler (though I'll have one of those too if they are on offer) I need an armed enforcer at the gate to my edit cave. During the edits for "The Sister Queens" I took my kids to my parents house for "vacation." It was worth the long drive as my parents and children went out together and left me in blissful solitude at the diningroom table of my youth. Generally, however, I act as my own enforcer--setting strict limits for when I am available to play a board game, go to the pool or even cook a meal. Heaven help the person who violates those limits. He/she had better be missing a limb or an eye when they show up in my lair claiming they need to see me.

  5. It is so hard to carve out the time. I locked myself in my bedroom for hours at a time, and worked at night too, Mindy. My kids were very understanding - for the first hour or so! Wouldn't it be lovely to escape somewhere for two weeks, in a cottage on the ocean, with that butler? A writer can dream....

  6. Sophie - Yes, being your own enforcer is the trick

    Erin - If I were near the ocean I'd be too tempted to run out into it. Give me somewhere mosquito infested with humidity but good A/C indoors and I'll be productive :)

  7. My edit cave would have chips and the dress code would be pajamas.

  8. thanks for sharing.