I’ve never had writer’s block. Maybe it’s because I have so little time to write, I try to make every second count. True, with all three of my manuscripts (and now a fourth in its embryonic stage), after completing the first chapter or two, there was a period when I thought my story was stupid and I lost all interest. But after a few months’ gestation, I got back into it and words began to flow.

I think some people get "writer's block" at this stage because they are trying to do more than simply get words down on paper. They forget that drafting a manuscript is only the first step. Crow croons, “The First Cut is the Deepest,” and as writing involves similar matters of the heart, we should expect a first draft to be the messiest by far.

Like labor and childbirth, no matter how long it took or the pain involved, when that baby emerges, it’s a little monster covered in goop. And like walking out of the hospital with your bundle of joy in arms, once you’ve finished your manuscript, the real work has only begun.

It takes eighteen to thirty-or-so years to raise a human capable of facing the world on his or her own. And so, a manuscript requires between eighteen and thirty edits (my opinion, I know) before its wobbly, little legs are sufficiently strong to waltz out in the form of a novel. It takes time to really examine our work and perform the painstaking surgery that ultimately brings those clumsy, flat words to life. That’s where most writers make their biggest mistake: We are so in love with our creations (and so exhausted from the months of labor), that we cannot see our little darlings objectively. We simply cannot accept that our creation is less than perfect.

A first edit should be nothing short of slash-and-burn (think grounding your kid from all electronics for an entire month). After that, we get into tune-ups, check-ups, and parent-teacher conferences (attended by anyone whose opinion you respect who's willing to honestly assess your writing). For me, this process utilizes several structures. I can only look at my double-spaced manuscript for so long before I stop catching things. Then I must review it in PDF format, and/or formatted into CreateSpace’s template so I can see how it reads in book form (it helps to have a completed cover by the time I get to this stage). My work takes on entirely different personae from these diverse vantage points—like my kid in action at the schoolyard or a party, when she doesn't know I'm watching.

Editing has many levels of nuance: At a minimum, timelines and other factual data must be double-checked for accuracy, and grammatical and typographical errors caught and cleansed. But you should also review for authenticity of dialogue and accents, while generally trying to “tighten” your narrative. I slash prepositions, connectors, and extraneous descriptive words. Finally, like putting that last buff on a newly-waxed car, I edit for rhythm and flow. The words should have a certain musicality to them, while conjuring a healthy number of mental images. (Here’s where a few glasses of wine—or your inebriant of choice—can help.) Even with a liberal dose of overlap, balancing these competing emphases will require at least ten thorough, front-to-back reads. It's simply a matter of putting in the time and doing the necessary legwork to make your baby something you can really be proud of. Does this guarantee that agents’ offers will flood your in-box, or that your book will sell millions of copies? Absolutely not. So, should you even bother? Absolutely. After all, only a handful of kids will turn out like Oprah Winfrey or Bill Gates. But that doesn't mean that every other child isn’t equally deserving of our time and effort.

In this fast-paced world, too many us are in a hurry to move on to the next thing before finishing the business we already have. Writing, like child rearing, is one of life’s greatest joys. And like raising children, it is rife with day-to-day tedium and occasional, heart-wrenching lows. Savor the moment! Once we toss our babies out into the world, they're gone from our grasp and there’s no getting them back.