Should You Edit While You Write?
Should You Edit While You Write?
Many first-time writers wonder if they should edit during the writing process. The simple answer, and the resounding consensus that you will hear online and in books, is NO.
Writing is an art. It is a creative process where you bring your story to life.
Writing is an art. It is a creative process where you bring your story to life. Editing, on the other hand, is more of a logical and methodical process, where you are looking at things like sentence structure, grammar, spelling, and the like.
I have read articles that claim that writing and editing use different areas of the brain, and if you try to do both at the same time it can be detrimental to the creative process. I have read other articles that say you actually use both the logical and the creative when writing.
I believe that the latter is true, but that the importance lies in what you are most focusing on in different stages of the writing and editing processes.
The general advice…is to put your nose to the grindstone and focus on getting your first draft done before moving on to the editing process.
The general advice is to put your nose to the grindstone and focus on getting your first draft done before moving on to the editing process. Of course, you are going to use some logic in plotting and structuring your book, but world, character, and story building – in other words, the creative aspect – will be your priority during the writing stage.
Once you go back to edit, you are going to focus on the details, such as spelling, grammar, structure, and so on, to make your creation as accurate and appealing as possible. It’s the cutting and polishing of the diamond you’ve just made.
There are certainly many benefits to approaching writing in this way. There will likely be less time to spend on worry and self-doubt as you just get your thoughts down on paper. Your mind will be focused on the story itself, thus allowing the story to flow naturally.
Is going back and re-reading the same as editing?
But what if you’ve been away from your book for some time due to work or family responsibilities or illness? Should you go back and read what you’d written previously? Is going back and re-reading the same as editing?
It depends on what your focus and goals are when you go back. If you go back and pick at the grammar and look for plot holes, for example, you would be venturing into the editing area. Try and stay away from the urge to do this before the first draft of your manuscript is complete.
To use myself as an example, I have a full-time day job where I often take work home with me. I also have two young children. There are times when I have to be away from my work-in-progress (WIP) for some time. Because of this, I will often go back and re-read sections of what I have written.
I do this to get back into the world of the novel, to re-acquaint myself with my characters, and to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything that I could accidentally contradict going forward (this can happen more easily than you might think when you are writing 70,000 words plus).
What I don’t do at this point is any line, content, or structural editing. I don’t nit-pick the grammar, fact check, or edit the content. I will leave these for after I have completed the first draft.
Of course, it goes without saying that everyone is different, and what works for most may not work for all. And that’s okay. The general advice, as I said above, is to approach the crafting of your story and the editing of your story in different passes, and this seems to work well for me.
In the end though, you need to find a process that works for you personally, and you will find it with time and practice.
In the end … you need to find a process that works for you personally, and you will find it with time and practice.
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Sherry Leclerc is a science fiction and fantasy fanatic who lives in magical realms where swords and sorcery,
action and adventure, seers, shifters and sorcerers abound.
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