Should You Edit As You Go?

Should You Edit As You Go?

Authors are passionately divided on the subject of editing as you go.

Should you write your first draft as fast as possible, dumping your creativity on the page while it’s still smoking hot, never stopping to tweak so much as a misspelled word until you’ve got it all safely down on paper?

Or should you write a little more thoughtfully, taking the time to craft your words and ideas as you go, stopping to fix problems whenever you realize something isn’t working?

Secret Miracle Novelist's HandbookThese are tough questions, and the answers, frankly, aren’t much easier. In his review (The Writer, August 2010) of The Secret Miracle: The Novelist’s Handbook, Chuck Leddy presents a neat summary of the opposing views on the subject:

On the … difficult question of whether you should polish (i.e., revise) your sentences as you go along or wait until after the first draft is finished, we seem to get a different answer from each author.

Irish novelist Anne Enright says, “I work the sentences and the rhythms all the time. I can’t move on from a bad sentence; it gets more and more painful, like leaving a child behind you on the road.”

Curtis Sittenfield (Prep), however, completely disagrees: “I strongly feel that trying, in a first draft, to make every sentence shine and be perfect before moving on to the next one is a recipe for never finishing a novel.”

How to Decide if Editing as You Go Is Right for You

As with so much of writing, the answer to this little conundrum is largely dependent upon each writer’s personality and preferred working methods.

Perfectionism can be an easy trap to fall into, and far too many writers have choked themselves up—sometimes fatally—by obsessing about the mistakes in already-written chapters, instead of pushing ahead to write new material.

On the other hand, writers like Enright (and myself) get more than a little crazy if we know there’s a problem with that previous scene and we can’t go back to fix it. It’s like a splinter under a fingernail—painfully niggling until we finally pay attention to it.

The Pros and Cons of Editing As You Go

So how do you decide which tactic is best for you? Following are some pros and cons.

The Pros of Editing As You Go

Pro: Much cleaner first drafts.

Pro: A confident sense of cohesion as each piece settles into place.

The Cons of Editing As You Go

Con: Time-intensive first drafts.

Con: Sand traps of perfectionism and doubt that never allow you to move on.

The Pros and Cons of Editing After the First Draft

The Pros of Editing After the First Draft

Pro: Fast and furious first drafts.

Pro: An unfettered rush of subconscious-level creativity.

The Cons of Editing After the First Draft

Con: Messy first drafts.

Con: Uncertainty and insecurity over the worth of the storm of words on the pages behind you.

In order to decide whether you should edit as you go or not, evaluate your writing methods and decide whether perfectionism is likely to slow you down to the point your first draft will never get written.

If you can resist the siren song of obsessive perfectionism, editing as you go can allow you to spend the time to craft a cohesive and solid first draft.

However, if you feel early editing is likely to discourage your progress, ruthlessly put it off until the end of the first draft.

Either way, the happy conclusion is that whether you edit in the middle of a project or at its end is ultimately irrelevant to the quality of your story.

Wordplayers, tell me your opinion! Do you edit as you go? Tell me in the comments!

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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.

Comments

  1. When I started my current WIP I spent so long slogging over editing that I was getting nowhere. I’m having a far better time just working my way through the novel. Editing will come at the end – for a long and cruel editing period!

  2. For me it actually varies from project to project. Some stories come out in a rush and then require a lot of revising/editing later, and some prefer to simmer, allowing me the time to perfect things as I go. In the case of the latter, I’ve been doing this long enough to know that it won’t prevent me from finishing the novel. When you’re just starting out, though, perfectionism can definitely be a hindrance to your progress. I don’t think I would have ever finished my first novel if I’d focused on anything other than just getting the story out.

  3. I had read somewhere to turn off editing aides in Word. I moved along much better and on those days when nothing comes I go back and edit. This also seems to help me get back into the piece.

  4. I do a little of both. I get the first three chapters done then go over them carefully before posting to my critique group. If there are no major problems with the storyline I write the rest of the WIP, trying to make it as clean as possible. Yet I don’t slow that much because the story is flowing in my head and I do want to get it down. If I made each chapter as as perfect as could be before I moved on, I would never finish and I think a lot of that has to do with th fact I am a panster

  5. I do a little of both as well. I tend to write chunks–scenes or full chapters–and then go back and edit the whole section before moving to the next one. BUT I do it knowing I will still be going back to do more overall editing when I’m done with the whole piece.

  6. Best advice I ever received: “Allow yourself to writer crappy first drafts.”

  7. its all about knowing yourself as a writer, including your own weaknesses and strengths.

  8. Indeed, each writer should find what works for them.
    If I edit too much while I write the first draft, I tend to question myself to madness. The amount of doubts becomes crippling and, oftentimes, if I just keep writing most things fall into place.

    There are only two reasons for me to edit while writing.
    The first is if I realize I need to make a big change to a previous scene. In order to write the rest in the right mindset, I do quick fixes that aren’t necessarily good but put my mind in the right place and helps me when I rewrite the draft later.
    The second occasion is when I’ve been obliged to set the WIP aside for a while. I read it again to get back in and edit a bit as I read.

    When something really bugs me about a previous scene, instead of editing, I leave a note in the margin for when I rewrite the draft. If it’s more general, I put it on my “Watch Out For” (e.g. Watch out for Character X motivations.) and address them when I revise.

  9. Excellent post! The point about feeling like you’ve left a child in the road really rings true with me. I find it very difficult to move forward if I KNOW something is wrong. By the same token, if I were to try and fix everything the first time around, I’d never get anywhere. So, as usual I’m terribly mixed up. I think the idea I’m trying to get across is “happy medium.”

  10. I’ve found that neither option works for me. If I write straight through to the end, I miss a crucial development stage and then run short. But what I am doing instead is not actual revision or editing–it’s that development stage, and it’s all creating things from scratch.

    Here’s what I do:

    1. I identify a section of story to write and work out three elements that must be in that section on an idea map. Identifying those three element helps kick start me into thinking about what I need.

    2. I write the section, thinking about it as I write. I actually have the spellcheck turned completely off, so I’m not distracted by the wavy red and green lines. I never finish the entire section at this stage (the same is also true for my short stories–I don’t write the ending here, though the rest of the story may be generally finished).

    3. Then I think about it a bit more, and especially about those three elements. I’ll add some more material.

    4. Then I think about it some more and come up with more things to add. This part of the stage is where the snowball really starts rolling and I’ll add quite a bit. I may look at something and realize that I need to address a particular issue that didn’t occur to me before. These are all things that don’t occur to me in a traditional first draft, and when the entire story is written, it’s impossible to add them. What doesn’t happen is actual revision; I don’t revise sentences to make them better or do any editing. It’s only story.

    5. Spellcheck. I do this when I’m done with the section because I can’t ignore the spelling errors any more. I let the spellchecker find them for me, and then I manually correct them.

    This looks time intensive, but it actually is more time intensive to write it the traditional way. The traditional way requires extensive revision (like 30 times) to up the short word count, and even then, the story never works right because that development stage was not there.

  11. @Bethany: If editing as you go gets you nowhere, it’s definitely a cruel process!

    @Lydia: When I was first starting out, I was too ignorant to realize how far I was from perfection. Sometimes ignorance really is bliss!

    @Mary: I also turn off grammar checks in Word, mostly because I find it next to useless.

    @Amy: I edit as I go, but I can’t let anyone else edit until it’s finished. That’s something I’ve found very destructive to my creativity.

    @Kat: Oh, yes, one or two (or three or four) edits are never enough!

    @Corey: It’s endlessly true advice because first drafts are endlessly messy.

    @Summer: Much of the growth that comprises moving from novice to master is a matter of learning to know how we work best.

    @Aheïla: Notes in the margins are an excellent way to circumvent editing as you go.

    @Lisa: I’m a firm believer in happy mediums, but I also find I work best if I go back to rescue that child on the side if the road.

    @Garridon: Interesting system. Sound very effective!

  12. Once upon a time, I wrote the first draft before edits began. My first two novels were handled that way, and once they were finished, I found it harder to go back and develop both the characters and the story.

    As I work on novel #3, I write a scene or a chapter, then go back and edit before I move on. With the scene still fresh in my mind, I find it easier to fix what’s wrong, to know what my character is feeling, etc.

    As you said, this doesn’t work for everyone, but it is what works best for me. 🙂

  13. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so editing as I go would only slow me down. I prefer to get the first draft written and finished. I outline and plan so that helps avoid major plot holes and problems.

  14. @Lorna: I’m like you: If I don’t get to all the hard bits while my brain and my creativity are still buzzing in the first draft, I’ll have a much more difficult time of it the next time around.

    @Laura: I find it interesting how some perfectionists, such as yourself, have to avoid the edit-as-you-go technique, while others, such as me, have to edit as we go!

  15. I used to edit as I wrote. Last year, I participated in NaNoWriMo, which required me to let go of my usual methods. I couldn’t be happier that I did. I wrote my first draft all the way through, without editing, and it’s the longest, most complete work I’ve done to date. Without the distraction of making everything perfect before I continue, I managed to accomplish way more. And, sure, the revision process is rough and messy, but I’ve got so much more to work with now.

  16. I edit as I go along. To me mistakes just lead on to more mistakes. I like to get them out of the way first. Great post!

  17. @Meika: I’ve never participated in NaNo, mostly because I’d go crazy writing 50,000 words without editing! But I’m a huge fan of it and the encouragement it’s offered so many writers.

    @Ezmirelda: I share your viewpoint. The more mistakes I leave in the pages behind me, the sloppier I get.

  18. I think you just have to experiment as a writer and find what works for YOU, not ‘everyone else’. I’ve tried editing as I go, but I find if I do that, I never move beyond the first 3 chapters and eventually give up. So yes, I’m a big fan of madly rushing through crappy first drafts 😉 Thus the reason I decided to join in on NaNoWriMo this year.

    The only editing I do is a quick spelling/grammar read through at the end of a day’s work. Also, if I see something I KNOW needs to be changed (*cough* like a character dying, then showing up in the next chapter. And no, my books have nothing supernatural in them. Sigh), I’ll simply make a brief note of it, using the comments feature on Word.

  19. Since Im only on my second MS I dont have a method set in concrete yet. But I would have to say Im pretty sure I wouldn’t be prone to perfectionism! I occasionally get stalled and that’s when I go back to see what’s been going on in the story and I usually get re-inspired. I think I will be one of those that goes by what feels right at the time.

  20. @Mia: I couldn’t agree more. I find great value in reading about the processes of other authors, but the value comes from picking up a nugget here or there that I can use in my own process – not in trying to copy their processes. Each one of us develops a process as unique as we are ourselves.

    @Jan: It took me five books to find the process I now use. I won’t be surprised if it changes completely after another five!

  21. This is a good way to put it. I’m more of the editing-as-you-go type, but I have to be really, REALLY careful that I don’t get obsessive about making it perfect, because like you said, it can be literally crippling. I’ll get to where I can’t write a single word, because I’m afraid it won’t be good. Yet at the same time, I can’t stand writing a fast, messy draft with no editing whatsoever. It’s nearly impossible for me to move forward and keep writing if I know I have some writing behind me that isn’t at least satisfactory.

    When I accomplish some writing that at least I, personally, think is good, it encourages me to keep writing; whereas if everything I write is bad it’s kind of demoralizing. So, I have to keep the balance of lightly editing my work as I go without being a perfectionist about it.

    But I like what you said about every author finding their own editing style… I hadn’t thought about that before. I guess there isn’t one, universal technique that works for everyone. It’s kind of a relief to know I can do it my way and that it’s not somewhere inferior to the editing-after-the-first-draft approach. 🙂

  22. All authors have to find a balance between the humble realization that nothing we write is perfect and then comforting belief that some of what we write is actually pretty darn good. If we can balance on that tight rope, we can usually make it through that first draft!

  23. For me, writing the first draft is like taking dictation: I type fast and furiously while the story flows. And if I stopped to edit, I fear I’d either lose the thread of the story or the flow would stop altogether (I’ve had to interrupt the rough draft process before…and priming that pump when the water has stopped flowing takes a MAJOR effort, and I doubt if the resulting completed piece is as good as it would have been had I kept going to the end…at least, comments from readers indicate that’s the case).

    While editing isn’t as much fun as writing that first draft, it isn’t really tough, either. Plus, during the edit, I find themes, etc. that I didn’t realize I was writing, and I can enhance them. I fear that if I’d stopped to edit while the words were flowing, I might have edited those things out, since I wouldn’t have seen their completed arc nor significance if I was only part way into the story.

  24. I’m always in awe of the unconscious/subconscious effect on creativity. I try to tap into it as much as possible in all areas of my writing process, but, at the end of the day, I’m decidedly a right-brain person, who tends more toward order and precision than raw creativity. It would be interesting to temporarily turn myself into a left-brain write-on-through-the-first-draft person and then compare the finished manuscript with one from my usual process. I wonder if the differences would be significant?

  25. “To edit or not to edit while writing?” that is the question.

    I find it easier to just write down all my ideas as fast as possible, regardless if there are plot holes and spelling mistakes. My creativity won’t be stopped by such small details! I write until I burn out all those creative sparks.

    If I start to edit while I’m writing, I get lost in the editing process and start to question my every movement.

    So, write on and do what’s best for you!

  26. I edit as I go along.

    When I start to write, I go back a page or two or three to get a sense of the flow, mood, and syntax. In re-reading those pages, I spot flaws, rough spots, better word choices, so I polish, edit, and insert more apt words.

    I edit in snippets. When I finish a chapter, I re-read it and do the same, firing my muse for the next chapter.

    But that’s just me. Roland

  27. NaNoWriMo taught me to spill out a rather junky first draft and edit later. With my short stories, I might think it over a bit more, but I also am a SotP-er, so spilling works.

  28. @Vatche: I love how unique the writing process is to all of us!

    @Roland: Most of my “editing” as I go is really just polishing. Occasionally, I have to rip out scenes and start over, but for the most part, I’m just reading and re-reading and tweaking as I go.

    @Galadriel: I’m actually just the opposite. When I write short fiction (which I don’t very often anymore), I’m much more likely to spit it out as quickly as possible, sometimes without even so much as an outline.

  29. Great stuff. I edit as I go, usually by chapter. But I’ll admit, I keep going back to the beginning to add in little things. The method is good, but I don’t get anywhere, so I’m trying to stop myself from going back to the beginning every time I think of something!

    Great post!

  30. One of the reasons I feel comfortable editing as I go is that I’ve already figured out the story during the outlining phase. Because I have the safety net of a completed story arc, I feel like I have more freedom to play around with the details in the first draft.

  31. Just wanted to chime in on the talk about short stories. In my books, I don’t edit as I go, but in my short stories, strangely enough, I do. I’ll consider each word as I go, rearrange sentences, etc. Typically by the time I finish a short story, I’m pretty much done with it. I’ll do a final read through, but by then I’m just changing commas around.

  32. How very interesting that we all seem to treat short stories and novels differently. I feel like I have more leeway for rushing through a short story since I’ll be finished with it relatively quickly and can still get the problems ironed out while they’re still fresh in my mind. Perhaps you feel like you can edit as you go in shorts because you know it can’t slow you up as much since the story takes less time to finish?

  33. I have spell-check on and fix misspellings as I go along. I also have a Beta reader reading chapter per chapter as I write. The reasoning for this is checking pace and making sure I’m not straying too far from the storyline. Research is done during the first draft as well. Even after all this, I know there will still be major revisions after the first draft.

    I think it’s perfectly fine to edit as you go along, as long as you don’t marry your words. There will always be a need for a 2nd or 3rd draft. You will always need to make changes or re-examine your work. Of course this is just my humble opinion and the way I do things. (hugs) Indigo

  34. Whatever works for each of us is whatever is right for each of us. Personally, I can’t let anyone read my work until the first draft is finished, but I edit for several people who are the exact opposite.

  35. Hi K.M.,
    My approach depends on how emotional I am when I’m writing. If I’m crafting an essay, fact-checking lends itself to editing as I go because I’m pausing anyway. However, when I’m writing an opinion piece, I tend to ignore typos, sentence structure, and the like and push on until I’ve typed all of my major points. As you’ve mentioned, the latter approach results in a messy first draft, but it also captures the emotion before it dissipates. Ray

  36. I’m sure we’re all that way to one extent or another. I know my editing sentence by sentence and paragraph by paragraph goes out the window when I have an intense scene going on.

  37. I read what I wrote the day before, edit that (again), then write fast and furiously until I hit something I don’t like. I’ll fix it, taking however much time is required, and start writing again. When the day’s session is done, I’ll go back and read from the previous day’s work all the way through to check for flow and inconsistencies. I’m always editing.

  38. I write, then edit, but if a sentence were bugging me as bad as the author you mentioned, I’d fix it and go on. There’s no magic; we’re all individuals with different ways to work.

  39. Perhaps you feel like you can edit as you go in shorts because you know it can’t slow you up as much since the story takes less time to finish?
    That’s definately part of it for me. I know (or at least have guessed) where the story will end up, so I can edit without worrying about loosing my way.

  40. It depends on the project. I’ll fix typos when I notice them while writing, generally, but that’s about it. (And I don’t use outlines, so the second draft is pretty messy.) Everything turns out all right after the sixth or seventh millionth draft. 😉

  41. I’m an edit as you go person. I’ve tried the other way, but it doesn’t work. And (thank goodness) I’ve heard some Big Name Authors say they use this system — one called it a ‘sewing machine’ approach, as she backed up, zig-zagged, and reinforced what she’d written before, so that when she hit ‘the end’ the book was virtually ready to send off.

    Terry
    Terry’s Place
    Romance with a Twist–of Mystery

  42. @Linda: I really like the idea of writing until you hit a hard spot, then going back to read over what you’ve written. That always helps my momentum too.

    @Kathryn: There’s magic in the non-magic of it all, though. After all, that’s we write, isn’t it? 😉

    @Galadriel: Interestingly enough, it’s (again) the opposite for me. I don’t edit shorts as I go because I don’t know where I’m going and I need to get there as quickly as possible to find out.

    @Kate: Seven million drafts – yep, that sounds about right for me too!

    @Terry: I like that description a lot. That describes my method pretty well.

  43. I do a weird combination of both, I guess… I write furiously until I come to a stopping point and then while I’m thinking thinking thinking, I’ll go back and read over what’s come before and tweak, polish, fix.

    My husband says I shouldn’t do this, but it’s sort of my way of processing. And it keeps me up on what’s gone before what needs to come next.

    Great post, Thanks KM! :o)

  44. Sounds like a good balance to me! As long as we’re not bogging ourselves down in the imperfections of what we’ve written, reading it over is almost always a good way to center ourselves in the story and refill our creative juices for another bout.

  45. I have to edit as I go, or I just can’t move forward. It does take a long time to get the first draft out, but revisions go much quicker!

  46. It all comes out even in the end. Edit-as-you-go people spend more time on the first draft. Edit-afterwards people spend more time on the second. And we all spend a lot of time on the dozens of drafts that follow!

  47. Wow, this post got some good feedback!

    I edit as I go, mostly. Last year I did NaNo and succeeded in reaching 62,000 words, but, unlike most of the others who did it with me (and contrary to advice), I edited somewhat as I went. I can’t stand leaving misspelled words or grammar problems behind me. However, I waited until the end to take out things, add others, and brush up the plot.

    For my WIP, Wordcrafter, the process is more laid back and I’ve done more editing as I go. It makes me feel better about the plot; and besides, I have to keep the chapters tidy to show to my dad each time I finish one.

  48. I can see how there would be many benefits of having an instant alpha reader to look at each chapter as it’s written. That’s never worked well for me though. I seem to lose some of the magic if I let others look at it before it’s finished.

  49. I’ve been editing as I go, but I always end up getting bogged down in the details and giving up. The furtherest I’ve gotten in a first draft up until now is 54 pages.

    I recently decided to revive that one, and I’m trying not to edit as I go. I’m roughly 15 pages in and completely divergent from my outline of the original. BUT, I like this version more. It makes more sense and the action doesn’t feel rushed, the romance isn’t forced. It’s evolving much more organically and making me happy.

    I do allow myself to go back and finish misspellings, but that’s it. Anything else I spot gets marked with curly braces {} for future examination/editing/fixing.

    I’ve never edited short stories as I write, and it works for those. So far so good on a longer piece. ^_^

    <3,
    TL

  50. I tend to do some of both, depending on the story I’m writing. Often, I’ll do one edit on the material I’ve written the previous day before moving on to today’s writing. I think the key is to keep that creative energy flowing in whatever draft you are in b/c. I often end up writing new (1st draft-like) material throughout the process of writing and revising.

  51. Kinda hard to decide. I look back at my writing methods, and I’m still trying to get into my own little niche.

    At this time, I’m putting a microscope to my OUTLINE!!
    I want major problems worked out as much as possible before I start the first draft.
    Well, okay, so the third first draft…lol

    With this one, there’s so many snags! But instead of being in a sagging middle and finding it out, I’m going through all the scenarios I can think of beforehand.

    My last manuscript was a bear! I still have major disconnects in there…but had I really sat and planned, my first draft would have been much different.

    On the revising as I go? All I know is I can’t stand to see the bright, ugly red underlining beneath a word I can’t remember how to spell. I can’t stand that the person’s eyes were really blue, but I forgot…so let me just go back and change it.

    So by the way THAT sounds, I believe I’d rather fix it as I go before I end up with another bear.

    🙂

  52. @Tura: Sounds like you’ve found the method that works for you. Keep on keeping on!

    @Paul: Ultimately, the story always has to dictate the process. Some stories demand complete deviations from our normal working habits.

    @Kelly: That’s why I love outlines so much. I’d much rather have my creative writing time free to *write*, rather than fussing over story details and plot holes.

  53. I’ve found I generally write a chapter, read back and edit it where needed. it has also led to a lot of interesting character developments so far, so I’m keeping it =P

  54. I don’t generally divide my work into chapters until after the first draft is finished. My editing process tends to go: every paragraph (unless I’m really on a roll), every page, every fifty pages.

  55. Nice. Totally agree.

    I’ve found that even journaling about it helps me work out plot issues and confusing lines.

    I’m slowly transferring from a pantser to a plotter…not so bad, considering I had more trouble writing w/o a plotted plan, we’ll see pretty soon, I hope, how different things are with a plan underway.

  56. Journaling has become a permanent part of my pre-writing routine. Explaining to myself what I need to focus on in the upcoming writing session is a marvelous way to get myself focused, so that when the time comes to write, I can just write.

  57. Great rundown of both sides. I think, like you said, it comes down to that particular writer’s style.

    I have to edit as I go. As much as I’d love to bang out a draft in a month or two, I’m just not built that way. So I write slower and deal with my perfectionistic tendencies.

    So for the last book, it took me six months to finish the rough draft. But I only had to do one round of revisions before querying. It got me an agent, so I guess it worked! ALthough now I’m knee deep in the agent’s requested revisions, lol.

  58. Research and outlines aside, it usually takes me at least a year to finish that first draft. But it’s time well spent!

  59. I can’t leave a word misspelled. I do my first draft on a NEO ALPHASMART. I try to correct the spelling as I go. When I load it into my PC, I have other editing issues to deal with.

    Even if I start something on PC, I still correct the misspellings in the first draft.

    The further polishing comes later.

  60. I can’t leave a word misspelled. I do my first draft on a NEO ALPHASMART. I try to correct the spelling as I go. When I load it into my PC, I have other editing issues to deal with.

    Even if I start something on PC, I still correct the misspellings in the first draft.

    The further polishing comes later.

  61. I’ve heard good things about the NEO. Don’t know that it would be good for me, but I really like the idea of it.

  62. Pay attention to what garidon said.

  63. Yep, good advice.

  64. These days I write in longhand, partly because of a technique I’ve developed that really only works on paper. If I’m not certain about a sentence, I scribble alternate ways to phrase it in parentheses above it, leave myself a brief note to choose synonyms later on, or draw a maze of arrows and squiggles indicating how the words should be rearranged. (You can guess what some of my first drafts look like!) For bigger things I write myself notes in the margins like “More dialogue here” or “Add bit about [such and such].”

    Of course it depends on what I’m working on too. Some of my stories don’t change much between the longhand draft and the typed version, while with others, I know as I’m writing that most of it is going to be changed at some point! 🙂

  65. During the rough and ready creative stages (which, for me, take the form of an outline), I prefer the sloppy freedom of longhand writing. But when I get down to business in the first draft, I like the neatness and ease of typing directly into the computer.

  66. I work by the process of ‘Editing after Writing’. It kinda works for me. At first I wasn’t all sure of this, but now thanks to you Weliand, I’ve decided that I was correct. Thanks!

  67. I used to always edit as I went. My first drafts came out as crisp as a second or third draft. Then I met NaNoWriMo. I can’t reach that kind of goal if I stop to edit, so I rush on.

    I hate it.

    Plowing through a scene I’m not satisfied with, but can’t even stop long enough to evaluate WHY it isn’t working makes me doubt the whole direction of the novel. And passing over SPaG errors tortures my perfectionism more than just fixing the silly thing. Yes, “vomit draft” gets the words on the page, but if I toss half of them later, what good is it?

    On the other hand, NaNoWriMo does push me to keep writing, so there is that. And in the end half of 50k is still 25k words I may not have written anyway.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I’m a big fan of the many good things NaNo encourages writers to do, but, yes, you’ve basically just summed up why I’ve never tackled it myself. :p

  68. I have to blurt it all out first. However, the more one writes and edits, the better the next first draft becomes.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      It’s true. In general, I have less to edit now than when I first started writing.

  69. Jess Elliott says

    I’m a perfectionist, not obsessively so, but enough that I have to correct typos the moment they’re made. But I save heavy rewrites and edits for after the first draft is done. The only exception to that is if I have an unexpected twist that affects previous scenes. Then I’ll go back and tidy those up before continuing forward. It’s never slowed me down, but I can see where for some it would.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yeah, typos drive me nuts. And I have to right-click on made-up words and tell the program to “learn” them. :p

  70. Oh, thank the LORD I found this article! I’m definitely a “Polish As You Go” author. I have trouble diving into new material until reading the previous scenes gets me in the mood. And if awkward sentences infect those previous scenes? No way. It’s like walking with a pebble in my shoe. Granted, if I can’t think of the right metaphor or something, I’ll insert [THINK OF TASTY METAPHOR]. Same with research: [LOOK UP WEIGHT OF APACHE HELICOPTER]. Otherwise, I need it to at least move me, pull me into the world I’m creating. Having completed two novels and a short story, I can rest assured this will not be a fatal “Analysis Paralysis” type thing. Still, I’ve been anxious about what other authors think and do. Thanks, Ms Weiland!

  71. Jessica Salmonson says

    I make myself take a light touch to editing as I go, and check for typos, punctuation, paragraph spacing, at least set the scene somewhat, and nice body beats, and this year work toward the potogs goal in the scene. Latter I’ll go back and add in foreshadowing and do more edits one by one. It’s easier—and saner—looking for one thing at a time.

  72. Jessica Salmonson says

    You ever type a word and it doesn’t look like one? I hate that. I was trying to type: saner

  73. Jessica Salmonson says

    Never mind. I must be making up a word again, Can’t find the correct spelling in google. ;-;

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