Some writers say, “write until you have a first draft with no editing.” Others like myself edit as we go along. Proponents of the “no editing” say that doing this stops the creative flow. For some reason it doesn’t for me, although I know it does for other writers.
Here’s how I work. I’m writing away and then have to pause to think about what’s going to happen next, or maybe I should say, how it’s going to happen. While I’m thinking, I often go back and reread a paragraph or more and at that time may make edits. It could be I don’t like how I said something. Or perhaps I need to add a few more details of setting. Or cut dialogue that is unnecessary. I also fix obvious typos while writing as they bug me. (For example, in this sentence I originally typed wiriting—my word processor underlines it in red--argh!—so I can’t ignore it.)
I think part of my process is that I’m discovering things as I write. A discovery on page 20 may affect what has gone before as well as what is coming. For some issues I make a note, but others won’t leave my mind unless I go ahead and go back to the beginning and fix them. Donna Gephard says, “And if writing were blocks, I rearrange more than a dozen times for some of my word towers. And even if the whole structure topples, I begin again.”
After a break in writing, whether it’s two hours, two days, or two weeks, I usually reread what I wrote in the last writing session. Rereading gets me back into the character and the scene and helps me move forward. And I make any edits that jump out at me.
Once I have a number of chapters written, I usually take a chapter to my critique group. I reread it and edit before they see it. Then I edit based off of their comments. They can really help me see where to deepen or add to a scene, and sometimes where I need to develop a simple transition into a scene. Some of their advice carries through to where I’m currently writing in the novel.
When the novel is “done,” I usually let it sit awhile before going back to make more edits. Then I read the whole thing straight through to get a better picture in my head of how the story is working. But that waiting time is so important first. As Robyn LaFevers says, “A critical part of my process is letting the book lay fallow for a while between drafts.”
My process means I don’t have draft numbers as other writers do, but it’s what works for me.
How about you? Are you a “write the first draft without editing” writer, an “edit as you go” writer, or something in between?
SM Ford writes inspirational fiction for adults, although teens may find the stories of interest, too. She also loves assisting other writers on their journeys.