Should You Edit As You Go?

Should you edit as you go? This is a question just about every writer asks at one point or another. Part of the reason for the prevalence of the question is that the question is in fact complex and contextual. In short, the answer to “should you edit as you go?” isn’t always a simple yes or no.

Popular advice usually insists, “Never edit as you go.” Sometimes this is the most advantageous approach. Other times, however, refusing to edit as you go can lead to a hot mess of a first draft that lands somewhere between “this will take me the rest of my life to fix” and “this is unsalvageable.”

But if you choose the other fork in the road and do allow yourself to edit as you go, you may equally find yourself forever stuck in a morass of perfectionism, in which you never get to have the fun of actually writing and moving your story forward.

Personally, I do edit as I go. I’ve taken this approach on every novel I’ve ever written, and it has served me well. Not only does it lead to cleaner first drafts that require fewer edits at the end, it also helps me course-correct stories as quickly as possible. The alternative, often, would be to knowingly write a broken first draft. For some that might work; for me, it seems like pointless torture.

But I’ve come to recognize that whether or not editing as you go is really the best choice has much to do with each writer’s personal process—which is based on that individual’s personality, strengths, weaknesses, and even unique lifestyle demands.

Should You Edit As You Go? Three Answers

Although the decision of whether or not you should edit as you go is certainly not as black and white as I’m about to present, I do think that if you can identify what kind of writer you are, you will be able to make a more informed decision about what kind of editor you are.

In general, the question of editing as you go has to do with whether you most enjoy being a “plotter,” a “pantser,” or a “plantser.”

Answer #1: Yes, You Should Edit as You Go (or, the Structured Approach)

Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success by K.M. Weiland

Outlining Your Novel (Amazon affiliate link)

Are you an outliner, a plotter, and a planner? Are you someone who prefers to know the story before you sit down to write the first draft? If so, editing as you go is very likely your best choice.

For an outliner, an extensive and thorough outline can in many ways be considered the first draft. It is the part of the story where the brainstorming and discovery happens. It’s the raw, sloppy, vulnerable bit where the story is revealing itself to you.

It is also, of course, a time of organization, when you rationally examine the emerging plot to make sure it works. You’re taking time upfront to do your best to ensure all the important story pieces are in place. Ideally, this means that when you start writing the first draft, you will have an accurate road map to lead you through the story, scene by scene.

Of course, there will still always be detours. What Dwight D. Eisenhower said about battle is equally true of writing fiction:

In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.

Depending on how successfully you constructed your outline, you should ideally have very few major changes to make by the time you start writing the first draft. Those changes that do need to be made are often less about major plot or character alterations and more about minor tweaks—such as setting changes or the like.

As such, editing as you go when you’re an outliner means you’re less likely to be tempted into derailing your forward progress. Rather, editing as you go becomes more about systematically straightening up after yourself.

Personally, I edit every previous day’s writing before moving on to the next bit. I also consciously take a break after every major structural beat and read over the entire manuscript so far. I call this the “50-page edit,” but that number really depends on how long the book is. If you write lengthy fiction, as I do, stopping every eighth of the book (aka, after every major structural beat) is helpful for re-orienting yourself in the details of your story. But if you’re writing something shorter, you may only need to stop once or twice throughout the process—or not at all.

Unless an outline proves to be fatally flawed, this approach usually leads to solid first drafts that require little major structural editing by the end.

Answer #2: No, You Shouldn’t Edit as You Go (or, the Discovery Approach)

Are you someone who “writes by the seat of your pants,” spontaneously reacting to your inspiration by exploring it through your own prose? Do you prefer to do your brainstorming in the first draft itself, rather than in an outline ahead of time? If so, editing as you go may not be your best option.

“Discovery writers,” or “pantsers” as they are sometimes called, often feel stifled by outlines. The idea of logically planning your way through the entire story before you write it can seem both daunting and disheartening. If your favorite part of the process is the writing—the wild whirl of creativity as you wait to see what happens next—then imposing order and organization onto your story too soon can rob you of both inspiration and motivation. You will almost certainly still need to impose logic and order on your story at some point, but you may be better off waiting until the revision stage instead of doing it ahead of time in an outline.

Because the flow of inspiration is so important to this type of process (and because it is accepted that the first draft will be comparatively messy), it can be counter-productive to stop and edit as you go. Indeed, stopping to review all of the manuscript’s current problems can not only derail you into making corrections before you’re ready but can also discourage you from finishing at all.

The more logic-based parts of storytelling—i.e, outlining and editing—use different brain functions than do the more creativity-based parts—i.e., brainstorming and immersive dramatic writing. Although we can and do switch back and forth between these functions all the time, often we’ll get the best results by isolating our efforts. Indeed, this is exactly why outlining works best for me. It lets my logical brain put to rest as many of the logical problems as possible, so I don’t get distracted while bringing the first draft to life during the creative phases. It just depends on how your brain works and what you enjoy most.

If you know you write best in a creative flow and that this creative flow needs to be protected from your more rational, perfectionistic urges, then you may be wary of falling down the rabbit hole of editing as you go. After all, when there’s a sign that says “Here Be Dragons,” it’s probably best to heed that.

Answer #3: Maybe You Should Edit As You Go (or, The Figure-It-Out-As-You-Go Approach)

Honestly, I rather think this is the answer that applies to all of us because no matter how inveterately we identify with one side or the other of the plotter/panster polarity, we all have to employ all the skills of a writer at some point or another. Those who do this most naturally sometimes call themselves “plansters”—a mix between plotters and pantsers.

If this is you, then you may want to plan some things about your story upfront, but not necessarily every scene. Or you may outline a few scenes, write them, then outline a few more. Regardless your specific preferences, you are probably a generally more flexible person. You’re likely comfortable with both structure and unleashed creativity. This means your best relationship to editing as you go will also likely be pretty flexible. Sometimes editing as you go will be the best fit; other times, not so much.

Again, this is really true of all of us. There have been times in my own writing history when stopping to edit has admittedly been just a procrastination technique so I didn’t have to do the hard work of actually writing another chapter. Similarly, for discovery writers there can sometimes come a moment when they know the story is such a wild mess they simply can’t bear to keep going without first cleaning up after themselves.

This points to how there really is no one size fits all answer to the question of whether or not it’s best to edit as you go. We can listen to the common bits of advice floating around out there, but each of us must decide our own best course based on personal experience and self-knowledge.

Finding Your Own Process (or, Know Thyself)

When we ask “Should I edit as I go?” what we’re really asking is “Is this going to trip me up—one way or another?” As you can see, that answer varies wildly. Editing as you go can be either a great boon or a tremendous stumbling block. Whichever is true for you depends largely on where your own personal strengths and weaknesses fall within the writing process.

Ask yourself:

  • In what part of the writing process (plotting, drafting, or revising), do you naturally have the most enjoyment and discipline?
  • In what part of the process do you naturally have the least enjoyment and discipline?
  • Which do you feel is more likely to discourage you from finishing your first draft: stopping your forward momentum to edit for a while, or plowing ahead when you know there are problems behind you?
  • How judgmental of yourself and prone to perfectionism are you? If you go back to identify problems, will it rob you of the necessary motivation to finish the first draft?
  • How capable do you currently feel of fixing your first draft’s problems? Can you fix them quickly, or will you get sidetracked by trying to figure out what the problems are?
  • How much discipline and enjoyment do you have in the revision phase? Do intense revisions overwhelm or excite you?

There is no perfect process. If you’re going to write a book, you’re going to have to do the bits you dislike just the same as the bits you love. You’re also, inevitably, going to run afoul of discouragement, inertia, and confusion at some point (probably many points). That’s just part of the wilderness adventure that is fiction writing.

You may well need to experiment a bit before you discover your best relationship with editing as you go. Get familiar with the warning signs that your motivation and discipline are flagging and use that as a gauge for when stopping to edit will help you and when it will hinder you.

At the end of the day, there is no right answer, even just for one person. There will be times when you’ll edit as you go and times when you won’t—and times when you should or should not and miss the signs. Whatever your decision, it’s always reversible. Pay attention to what writing environments create your best work, and listen to you own creative signals to help you find the answer to this question on a daily basis.

Wordplayers, tell me your opinions! Do you usually edit as you go? Why or why not? Tell me in the comments!

Click the “Play” button to Listen to Audio Version (or subscribe to the Helping Writers Become Authors podcast in Apple Podcast or Amazon Music).


Love Helping Writers Become Authors? You can now become a patron. (Huge thanks to those of you who are already part of my Patreon family!)

Sign Up Today

hwba sidebar pic

Sign up to receive K.M. Weiland’s e-letter and receive her free e-book Crafting Unforgettable Characters: A Hands-On Introduction to Bringing Your Characters to Life.

About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.


  1. I’m in camp #3. I love the Eisenhower quote. I can’t imagine not doing an outline, but I also don’t hold myself to it when I find things to add to my story. That is my bear trap, because you have to know when to stop adding. In terms of editing, I draft with a toddler’s fury, but one scene at a time. After each scene, I launch a barrage of edits (ProWritingAid, read aloud, have computer read to me) because my raw drafts are a toddler’s prose. These edits fix the language well enough that I can share it with other writers (I’m fortunate enough to belong to a writers group where we share crits).
    Honestly, I love all three parts of the writing process. Plotting and drafting are creative highs, and editing feels like verbal gardening to me and there’s something satisfying about getting the verbal weeds out of my prose.
    Now if I could just develop the same feelings about marketing.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      You’re definitely not alone in having different feelings about marketing. It’s a different adventure altogether, that’s for sure.

  2. I usually scribble my thoughts and plot down first and then tidy it up on the desktop. Since I am the world’s worst typist, I go back and edit again.

  3. Chris Graham says

    I’m not a planner, I’m a theme junkie if anything. I’ll have a few ideas of themes I want to include, write a few scenes involving each theme, then put those into some kind of chronology once I’ve worked out how they can be connected in the same plot (often each will be split into scenes, interwoven with each other as they occur in fictional ‘real time’).
    By this point, my regular characters have been fitted into these scenes, and I know them well enough to know how they react in situations. I then let those characters, alongside or in parallel with the new (usually ‘bad guy’) characters, lead me onwards ’til a plot begins to form and I can envisage an ending (which may not be the final ending).
    Because of this method, I’m forever re-visiting earlier chapters to write in pointers and references to any new characters or situations my characters lead me to. A lot of editing gets done while I’m re-visiting. This usually means I write a complete beginning long after I’ve started the book.

    Interestingly, following a change of publisher, I’ve been re-writing my first over-long novel in the series to make it more accessible, turning it and its sequel into a trilogy instead by removing a sub plot and using it in the new ‘book 2’ along with a new major plot thread that connects books 1 & 3. It’s given me the opportunity to reappraise my writing with the benefit of the improvements in my technique since that first book was written… and published… With hindsight, I’m now aware that whoever my previous publisher used to edit it, wasn’t as good as the editor who has edited the last five novels in the series. He’s now got it back again (after savagely going through it) and hopefully I’ve addressed all his concerns. All the books will be relaunched, in time order, hopefully with better marketing too.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      We learn something new after every book. I’ve found that I can’t *really* assess a finished manuscript until after I’ve written the next book. Then the hindsight really kicks in.

  4. I’m definitely an inbetweener. I remember when my editor requested that I develop a synopsis for my first book so that they could share it with marketing and the booksellers–yeah, that was a fun learning experience. I now plot way more than I used to, but mostly just the main points I’m hitting along the way. And I have to say, writing that synopsis that they ALWAYS ask for is way easier with those notes. I don’t think I could ever be one of those writers that sit down and hashes out every scene prior to writing it, but who knows.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yeah, writing synopses got way easier for me too once I started using a list of my stories’ main structural beats as a foundation.

  5. “Personally, I edit every previous day’s writing before moving on to the next bit.”

    Yeah, me too. But there’s “editing” and there’s “spending too much time on details before moving on.” e.g., If I’m listing three plants in a garden and can’t think of the third one, I’ll just leave a blank to fill in later. But if that third plant is the key to solving the mystery, then I need to nail it down pronto. So it depends.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yes, I try my best not to get sidetracked by research when writing. That feels like a totally different brain-groove, and I have a hard time getting back into the writing afterwards.

      • Chris Graham says

        You find research a sidetrack, Katie?… I find it the opposite. If I get the germ of an idea, I’ll research it to see if it’ll work… For example, a character has to get somewhere, I need to know how long it takes, what the potential pitfalls are and how these factors will affect the plot and its credibility.
        If my scene relies on a character being visible to another who’s hiding in an alleyway, I need to check the sight-lines as my stories are set in the real world. Often Google Streetview tells me enough in these instances.
        Also, when researching, other details I discover open up more possibilities for the action… For one scene, checking Streetviews of a town in SW France I’ve not visited recently (since covid restrictions… My brother lives down that way, so the area is familiar to me as I normally spend five weeks holiday there every year), showed me some new developments which helped the story. A street which used to be a through way has now got bollards blocking it, which added to the drama of a chase scene, while another is now a one way street, again giving me additional plot devices to use during the chase.
        For another book, I needed technical details about a particular classic car my character drove. Phoning a garage that specialised in the marque, and speaking with a mechanic, gave me more valuable insights into the car’s handling foibles and other weaknesses, which could be exploited for dramatic effect.
        If I hadn’t researched, all these situations would have been missed.

    • Thea T. Kelley says

      Thanks, Harald, your comment is a valuable reminder for me. I have a bad tendency to go off on researching that third plant! 😉

  6. The only way I accomplish anything is to rewrite it. My first drafts are incomprehensible; they leave out SO much so I can just get some of the words down in the order they need to be in. Then, I rewrite the entire thing until it works. Not until it’s perfect, just until it works. Yes, sometimes I bog down and can’t move on within the scene. But until it IS a scene, it needs it.

    Sometimes I move on and come back to rewrite once The stuff which comes after is done, which informs what I need to fix in the first scene. I’m not rewriting until it’s perfect, just until it works well enough to write the next thing.

    The rest of you can write a sentence, and once it’s a sentence, write another. But a page of balderdash is just a placeholder awaiting a rewrite, not something anyone enjoys. I do that on paper, you guys seem to do it in your head.

    You have to know yourself. Not rewriting is the enemy of getting something which works.

    The greatest reason some of our writing doesn’t work is that advice. It sucks–for some of us.

    Following it, for SOME people (me), leads right off the cliff. I argued with a critique partner about this for five years. Then, she realized she was wrong, for me. I’ve published two books since then.

  7. Gary Myers says

    Great piece! Relieved me of a lot of the guilt I felt because I felt I “shouldn’t” be editing as I go – but always was!

    Definitely in Camp #3. I try to have a good feel for theme, arcs, and plot points before I start, but find that all are refined or altered during the writing process as the story is revealed. The thought of going back and realigning an entire manuscript accordingly absolutely flattens me.

    A related question that you’ve probably answered in a previous post: Do most authors write from the story’s start to finish? On my latest WIP I started with Act 3 (have to know where you’re going), then the Midpoint, then Act 1, and now working out the rest of Act 2. Seems to be working well.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Again, it’s all about what works for you. I think most writers write the majority of the story in chronological order. I prefer that method myself because I feel it leads to the most organic foreshadowing. But there will always be times when you have to go back and add earlier scenes.

  8. Trying to obey the strictures of famous writers, I have struggled heroically to avoid editing as I write, but have failed spectacularly. So I don’t fight it any more. Instead, I move quickly through the first draft, pausing to fix the more glaring errors. Bottom line, every writer is different, and you have to recognize your own style of getting the words right.

  9. Hey, Katie! I’m learning that individual writing process is almost as unique as fingerprints or DNA. You can get inspiration and ideas from other writers, but eventually you just have to discover your own way of doing things (like recently I’ve discovered, at least for now, I’m a short story writer and not a novelist… Seasons may change; we’ll see). Do you have any perspective on whether planners or pantsers are more likely to edit as they go? You’re a planner from what I can see… I’m generally a pantser, and I edit as I go, too. [And I regularly order the yupperoni pizza 🙂 ]

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I would guess that planners are more likely to edit as they go, for the reasons mentioned in the post. Basically: it’s safer. Because we have a road map and already know pretty much where we’re going, we’re less likely to be overwhelmed by changes that need to be made as we go.

  10. I’m a plantser and basically let my natural rhythm decide when to edit as I go. Generally, I edit as I go, but if I feel really driven by a story—like I can’t type it fast enough—I wait to edit until the fever breaks. With my current novel, I’m struggling with a lot of moving parts. It’s a murder mystery romance set in 1880s Texas, so there it’s easy to introduce anachronisms and logical flaws. I’m having to clean up every few chapters. This is probably bad, but I also like revisiting scenes that made me happy. It feels wrong, but I’m kind of needing it to keep me focused and to remember why I wanted to write this story in the first place.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Hey, whatever works. Kudos to you for being tuned in to what you need on a spontaneous basis. I struggle with that sometimes.

  11. I’m a pantser who edits as I go much as I do when I’m cooking. I clean the mess I make as I cook. I’m sure it’s a sign of my compulsive personality. I’d be interested to know how many other pansters have this same compulsion. By the way, even though I’m a pantser I love and use your outlining product. What does that make me?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Unique? :p Interestingly, I’m an obsessive novel planner but I make *mess* when I cook.

  12. Peter Moore says

    Over time, I’ve moved from the pantser towards the plotter side of writing. Not that I’m necessarily a logical, structural person. I spend a lot of time in my head in the beginning and know major parts of the story. If I don’t get those elements down, they will get lost.

    I’m not detail oriented, so while putting the entire plot in place is a good discipline, I find a number of holes can’t be filled at that point. A few take a long time to work themselves out. When I get stuck not knowing what will go into a chapter or scene while writing, I go into edit mode while mulling things over. Cleaning up the sections surrounding the chapters/scenes the back of my head is working on sometimes helps fill in the blanks.

    Of course, sometimes it doesn’t and I have to move to another place. Eventually, I’ll get a clearer idea and the chapter pretty much writes itself. For example, I struggled with the third pinch point in the book I’m currently working on (which I just submitted to ‘real’ editors — YAY!!!). I kept going instead of writing a chapter I knew would be put into my Deleted folder, thereby wasting a bunch of time (and maybe throwing the story the wrong direction). Since the plot was in place, I felt confident skipping this key piece. I even completed the rest of the draft and edited entire sections before writing this chapter. When my subconscious/creative writer was finally ready, I went back and blasted out five thousand-ish words in just a few hours, with relatively little editing needed.

    Like you said, whatever works. Thanks for all you do for the rest of us.

  13. Joan Kessler says

    When I began writing, I was a pantser, but that was because I didn’t know there were things called structure and character arcs. Now I’m a plantser, but I agree that it’s more important to find what works for you than to follow a so-called rule. I’ve also found that some projects arrive fully formed, and other not so much, which means being flexible with your process.

    I love getting lost in the writing, and I’m still discovering my process, and learning structure and plot and all that. Eventually it will all come together and I’ll know what I’m doing. Right??

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yes, every story is its own adventure, that’s for sure. What worked on one won’t necessarily work on the next.

  14. Thank you for talking about editing; this was great info! I do a mixture, and it’s good to hear pros and cons to each.

  15. I’d say I’m a total pantser (well, maybe 93%), but I always go back and edit the previous day’s writing. It helps me get back into the story (I joke that I don’t remember what I wrote the previous and it’s usually true) and makes sure the scene (or scenes) I wrote the day before is as impactful as I imagined it to be! (I saved a really important scene this way — I don’t know if I would’ve rewritten it as well if it wasn’t fresh it my mind when I attempted editing it.)

    Great insights here! Always interesting to learn other writers’ processes. I think it’s just a matter of allowing yourself to discover your own process and not being hard on yourself if your process doesn’t look like some else’s. Every writer is different — and that’s a good thing!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      “I joke that I don’t remember what I wrote the previous and it’s usually true) and makes sure the scene.”

      Haha. I feel the same way. :p

  16. Claire Graber says

    I’m new to writing longer pieces, and while I’m thoroughly enjoying the process of planning and outlining my first full-length novel, I’ve been nervous about making a decision one way or the other about editing as I go.

    I’m a planner, and I’ll doubtless spend a long time preparing an outline. Your commentary about personality and writing style is insightful, and I think it’ll help me to make a choice!

    I’m curious if there are times (e.g. NaNoWriMo, if you participate) when you do institute stricter editing rules for yourself. Do you deviate much from your routine?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Up to this point, I’ve always maintained a consistent routine on all my novels. I’ve never done NaNo, mostly because I felt it would mess with that routine. My motto has always been, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” :p

  17. Answer #1 describes me well; however, there are times when Answer #3 applies. Answer #2 never works for me.

  18. I am (by nature) more of a pantser, but I can’t “write dirty, edit clean.” I find that editing as I go helps. Sometimes, a scene gushes out and I have to get it down, but other times, the words themselves lead to the next words, so I need to find the RIGHT ones, if that makes sense. Because I discovery write, sometimes I need to go back and make adjustments to be sure that slight changes don’t create massive plot holes later.

    AND! I love your site and THANK YOU for all the wonderful information.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      “the words themselves lead to the next words, so I need to find the RIGHT ones, if that makes sense.”

      TOTALLY. This is also one of the reasons I prefer to edit as I go–because everything that comes before inevitably affects everything that comes after.

  19. First and essential is the Snowflake Story Sentence. I must have a premise in few words before anything else. I get this during walks or other activities, chewing over the idea until I can write it and I love it. From there, I have my “casting calls” and of course most important is MC, who I usually know before that Story Sentence.

    Then it’s hard-work time. My outlines are my first draft. After it has enough points and I like it, I write the chapters straight through. They’re usually skinny. I don’t edit until I have a readable file of entire novel/ la. Then I suffer and Spellcheck and redo and remove and and fix placeholder stuff and order a paperback. When I read paperback, I decide if it needs more proofreading. I don’t do any further revising. It is what it is and the new project will already be begging for a Story Sentence.

  20. When I was at school, we were told to always write a plan, whether for a story, essay, or whatever piece of writing we were doing. I hated it and usually added my plan after finishing. (We had to show it in our final work.)
    I’ve continued this into my writing career. This means I write as a pantster, although I know in my head where I’m going.
    With the hindsight plan, I can then use it in my editing, and add any foreshadowing etc.

  21. Bridgitte Rodguez says

    This was great! Thanks. I think I’m number 3. It totally depends also on what I’m writing. Sometimes inspiration will strike and I can write and write and write and I’ll edit after. Sometimes, I have a seed for a story. So I’ll start with an outline and a few paragraphs and then edit as I go- but in those cases editing as I go, really tends to be a procrastination method and I get side tracked in details and not moving the story along. So as you say, we all do a little bit of everything. But I love your questions to try to figure out where we best lie in the process!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      It’s all about knowing when editing is really the best choice versus just being that procrastination technique. So, really, it’s all about just knowing ourselves. 🙂

  22. I’m a study in contradiction. While I think it makes no sense to agonize over the grammar in a sentence when I may wind up deep sixing the whole scene, if I see something that jumps out at me as a typo or logic problem, I deal with it there, so I won’t have so much to deal with in my later edits.
    As for major global or developmental editing, if I get an idea during any particular draft instead of changing major parts of that draft that I’ve already written I make a note for the next draft. In fact, I make notes for the next draft is a section of my outline. That’s what I usually do.
    But there are times when while writing one scene I’ll realize that I need to go back to a previous chapter and foreshadow it. If the foreshadowing scenes are right before me crystal clear, I won’t wait for the next draft to write them in.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yep, totally. It’s all about flow. No reason that flow can’t be different at different times for different reasons.

  23. Grace Dvorachek says

    I think I’d qualify as a #3… I do outline, but I also discover some aspects of my story as I go. I used to hate revision, but now it’s gotten easier. Really, I enjoy all parts of the process–though some more than others.
    Thank you for solidifying in my mind that writers should discover what’s right for them… for a while I looked to accomplished authors’ methods to tell me exactly how to write. I’d even sometimes try to imitate their writing styles. Though I still listen to writing advice from others, I’ve also found that I should stop trying to be some other author. And that’s when I found my own, unique style.
    Thank you so much for this website!

  24. Great post and comments – so good to encourage writers to find their own rhythm with each book.

    I’m definitely a planster, but struggled massively to write anything successful until I discovered writing teachers who were solid on structure. Now with my own version of a four act structure I can write the stories as they come to me – whether that be linear from start to finish, backwards or jumping around.

    I’ve also started to write a synopsis after I’ve completed the first draft – a paragraph for each chapter. This not only tells me what I’ve got, but summarizing helps me find the essence of the scene – so I know what to focus on in revision.

    The other cool discovery was to lift out the main characters interior thoughts, chapter by chapter and print those out in a separate document – that way I could keep track of their internal journey and make sure it made sense and was progressing and not just repeating the same stuff.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      “I’ve also started to write a synopsis after I’ve completed the first draft – a paragraph for each chapter. This not only tells me what I’ve got, but summarizing helps me find the essence of the scene – so I know what to focus on in revision.”

      Nice! That’s a good trick. I may steal that.

  25. I’m in the third group. I plot my main points (all thanks to your easy-to-understand outlining process for first-time writers like me), but also like to let the creative juices take me wherever they may. However, I routinely edit as I go.

    I usually listen to or read previous chapters several times, and I often discover details about my characters as I write that I adore, and choose to add more of those characteristics earlier in the book. Or I’ll realize that three chapters back, I likely wasn’t clear enough about a certain aspect of the story and will go back to edit.

    I’ve often wondered if others who are writing share their work with friends or family as they write. I am writing my first novel, which is a fantasy-style story that is symbolic of my escape from Christian fundamentalism (the one I grew up in was cult-like in several ways). I have shared it with my sister, who was obviously in the same situation as me growing up, and with my therapist, as I have found writing symbolically and retrospectively has been very therapeutic for understanding my past. I mention this because I have found edits that needed to be made through their comments or questions about the story.

    Great article! I sometimes I feel like I edit too much (I’ve always been that way—even in school), but I think you are certainly right: frequent edits often makes a strong first draft.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Personally, I don’t like to share works-in-progress with others. I’ve gotten derailed in the past when I shared too soon. I like to finish the first draft and edit it several times until I’m happy with it before offering it up for critique.

  26. Nicole G says

    I dread revisions, I find them so overwhelming. I’m discovering with each new WIP that I spend more and more time planning before I start drafting. I don’t edit as I go, I remember that being one of the biggest no-no’s when I first started writing. But I’m trying to unlearn all the things I thought were steadfast rules required to become a writer and instead focus on what helps me get closer to where I want to be. So I plan to give the 50-page edit technique a try once I finish my current outline. I found this post very insightful, I’m always looking for ways to improve my craft. Thank you.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      “I’m trying to unlearn all the things I thought were steadfast rules required to become a writer and instead focus on what helps me get closer to where I want to be.”

      Yay! Good for you. 😀

  27. Great article. I adore editing but have to resist during first draft or I would never complete it. I can’t plot in detail first, just have a broad outline. After I write each scene in first draft I summarise it in a few sentences and add it to a plan document which grows with the draft. If I realise I should have done something differently earlier on in story I just put a note in red against that scene in the plan document (I do something similar with research needs, a note in blue). There are a few exceptions. If I know I have got seriously blown off course at a critical point I will go back and rewrite a scene to get me on right path but I try to limit doing this too often. By time first draft is finished I have a lengthy scene by scene plan document which I can use to sort out my 2nd draft.

  28. 50 pages sounds good or beat by beat (inciting event, first plot point, first pinch point, second plot point, etc.) But if I wait to finish the whole first draft before I edit, that can be overwhelming. I type fast and when Word tells me I have 592 spelling etrrrs and 487 grammar errors, I want to throw the whole thing out the window and go back to bed. So balance is key. Break the task up, and never say never.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      “balance is key.”

      Totally. Balance is crucial to so many parts of the process.

  29. I love these responses! I feel like I’ve found my tribe (sniff sniff) .. yeah!!!

    I am finishing my first manuscript, 3 more scenes to go and I’m so bummed I didn’t find this blog first. You rock, Katie! Thank you for being here!

    I started out editing as I go. I LOVE your “50 page edit” idea, it is a way better plan and would have helped me out so much! I go back and edit as the story progresses forward so I don’t forget the little nuances I began with.

    As it were, my story is being contained in date files because there are different perspectives of the same horrific event. Sadly, I haven’t printed out one page yet and now I’ve only got 3 scenes to go before it all ends. So today I have been playing around, fishing for information, reading writing blogs. It’s not that I don’t want to write, it’s just that these (currently) 86,000 words have been my heart and soul for the past few months. The world I live when I am writing feels, well… I’ll just say it! Like Twilight Zone. I’m totally there until I’m not. Is that how anyone else feels?

    I started looking at my voice today. In the back of my mind I asked, “Another scene, same everything, I love it when I’m there, but is the voice right?”

    And I think that is what’s making me take a day to explore a little. I love my antagonist. This weekend I found some really creepy things out about him (don’t you love it when they talk to you?) He was thrilling to write. But it changed what I had originally plotted. And now these next to scenes have to change. One was written already (huge bummer deal, but I like the new route much better) and the other is going to take a whole bunch of plotting on its own. I think I’m going to have to relocate to a coffee shop over the next few days so I don’t have the interruption of kids and doggies.

    So my computer let’s me know what I’ve work on when – and when things fall into the previous week, I will go back with fresh eyes to edit. I like what you said about editing what you wrote the previous day. I tend to start out re-reading what I wrote to I can keep the flowing.

    Can’t wait to dive into your blog more.

  30. Hey Tracy! Katie just dropped an article o antagonists! Here:
    I actually get depressed when I get to the last chapter of a MS. I perk up a little the beta reading and editor’s feedback, but I totally crash when it publishes. I self publish, so I now hire a service to promote it because I know I’ll be in bed. I actually get autoimmune flares. It’s weird.

  31. I’m a pantser and love to see where my little gray cells will take me each day. I never edit until the book is done because of that, but I do write down changes I want to make as the story develops.

  32. Lindsey Russell says

    I went to a lecture by the late Colin Dexter (Inspector Morse books) in which he said (gist , not word for word) ‘Do not edit for perfection as you go because in a subsequent edit what you so diligently polished could end up being cut’, He went on to say ‘This does not mean you cannot go back and add to what you’ve written or it will disappear into the ether’.
    It’s why I always print a hard copy of the 1st draft and it ends up with red pen small additions, inserted page longer additions and ‘post its’ stating ‘enlarge’ or ‘condense’, or ‘check this’.
    But as so many have said, do what works for you.

  33. Geez, I could’ve acquired Carpal Tunnel scrolling to comment! : ) This, and the different strategies toward writing is conveyed so well. I’ve considered writing two books, one being a children’s book emphasizing how lizards are as sentient an animal as any other, the other about lives (referring to the notes about my family I’ve recorded). The problem is cost of accomplishing this, where to begin or finish in the process, as well as time. I need to refine blogging skills first, anyway. I edit as I go, but often I’ll review an old post & wonder why I worded things the way I did. As such, in that arena, apparently I must edit as I go, not read what I’ve typed for a while, and then fix it again as a whole. Thank you for the relief in my now knowing that I’m not writing with a particularly wrong approach.

  34. Hello dear, I read the article and it was help me a lot.. and I love your site and thank you for all inf…..!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.