When to start Editing?
This week on the blog, I thought I’d talk about editing – another in my writing craft series. Specifically, at what stage in the writing process to start editing or rewriting your WIP (work in progress).
I’ve been controversial about this recently. In the last couple of weeks, I seem to be entering the editing mindset. I haven’t even finished the first draft yet! This might well go against the grain of lots of writing advice. There’s the common adage ‘write now, edit later’. It’s often encouraged for writing events like NaNoWriMo.
I understand and respect this advice, because sometimes stating your edits can interrupt your trail of thought. By the time you’ve finished rewriting your previous paragraphs, you might have stopped the flow of creativity. Also, if you’re like me and you set up word count goals, starting editing early can really mess up your word stats!
Like most things in the writing world, it’s down to the individual author and their writing process. With that said, here are a couple of reasons why starting writing ‘early’. Maybe even before you’ve finished that first draft – can be helpful for writers.
1. Editing can be easier than trying not to
If you’re like me, it can really bug me if I know I want to edit something I’ve written. Whether it’s a pesky typo or I already know the last paragraph I typed needs rewriting, it can be a real distraction. In fact the times when I’ve just tried to move on in the ‘write now, edit later’ mindset, it can then be pressure – and sometimes an annoyance – to focus on the next new words.
It’s like an itch I can’t scratch – the move I try to get on with new words, the more I keep thinking about that edit I know I need to do. This then can get very distracting and stilt the creative juices. So for some writers, going back to edit is actually easier than not. For those people, I think it’s okay sometimes to go back and rework that paragraph. You might then be in a better frame of mind to continue and you may not pressure yourself as much with trying not to edit.
2. You can see the story better
I think this can be especially true if you know you want to edit significant plot points or the story’s structure. This is the case for me at the moment. Currently I’m writing my fourth historical fiction novel in my Celtic era series (more info about my books here).
After doing some more research last week, I decided to go with a different interpretation of the events leading up to the end of my novel. This has had several implications for the middle of the story. Character conversations and confrontations are now happening at other times and settings in the novel. This has meant a lot of editing. I’ve shuffled a lot of scenes around, cut over 7k words from my manuscript and I know I’ll have a lot of rewriting to do.
I’m a plotter at heart, so actually to do so much editing at this stage. However, instinctively I feel like this is a better story now – and I think once I’m done, the whole shape of it will be clearer. My fourth novel is dual 1st POV, so the rewrite will hopefully give one narrator more agency while the other is away and ramp up the tension a bit between them.
3. Editing now might lead to different goals
Going on from my previous point, having a better shape of the overall story might change your characters’ goals and resolution. For me, I could have chosen to move stuff around and edit stuff one the final chapter was done. However, editing stuff in the middle now probably means I’ll have a different focus for the end.
Your own editing of a story before you’ve finished may mean the ending changes for you, too. Whether you’re moving characters to a different setting, deciding to have a plot point or confrontation happen much earlier on, or even a subtle tweak to a conversation – like ripples in a pond, this may have a bigger impact on your story thank you think. One advantage of editing stuff in the middle is you might have a better understanding of your characters’ goals and resolutions – which might be a lot easier than having to rewrite your endings, too.
What do you think? Are you a writer who likes to edit as you go a long, or do you find it more helpful to finish your first draft before you think about revising the story? Feel free to drop a comment or interact with me on social media about it – it could lead to some interesting discussions!
Thanks for dropping by my blog! Hope you enjoyed reading this post. Why not check out my other blog posts here, including others in the writing craft series. Head here to check out my published books, or find out more about me as an author.
Why not sign up to my newsletter? You’ll receive a free preview of my fantasy novel Lottie’s Locket when you subscribe. I also include a free preview of my first historical fiction novel, The Boy from the Snow, with every edition.
Till next time,