October 12, 2021
by Samantha Hoffman
There are two camps on editing as you go, no middle ground. The "don't" camp is way bigger, and more adamant than the "do" camp. I wonder, do we have control over that impulse?
I've done it both ways. When I wrote my first book I edited as I wrote, my second I did not. What I liked about the latter experience was:
- I got to meet all the characters
- I found out how the entire story would unfold
- It was easier to edit later, when I knew what would happen.
- I knew which characters were important and which ones could go
- It kept me more focused on the story
- It gave me permission to write less than perfect prose
- I got to type "The End" sooner
It was an interesting experience. I could get into the revision knowing all of the above was true. But it totally freaked me out. I am a perfectionist. I've fought hard not to be but it's a losing battle. I am who I am.
Book two needs lots of revision. I've done many and, truth be told, I am still working on it. It still needs a lot of revision. So maybe not editing during the process didn't work so well. For me.
For book three, which I work on when book two isn't going so well, I am editing as I go. I want to be that just-get-it-on-the-page-person but I'm not. Oh well. I am who I am.
Here's what I like about editing as I go.
- When I begin working each day I reread what I wrote the day before, and edit. Usually not a lot, but whatever I do gets me back into the story.
- It makes me think about what's happened earlier in the story and how it affects what's happening now.
- If I realize I need a scene earlier in the story to make sense of what's happening now, I go back and do that.
- It makes me more confident about the story.
- Sometimes it's hard to move the story forward; the next step isn't clear. Instead of just sitting there, wracking my brain, I edit. It stirs up my creative juices and my passion for the story. It's better to do something than nothing.
Like most writing advice, do what feels right for you. There are rules, but they are fluid. You won't be arrested if you don't follow some popular wisdom. You won't be kicked out of the writers' club. Do what works for you.
Writer, editor, artist, personal assistant, private chef, runner (8-time marathoner), film and theatre buff, traveler… Author of What More Could You Wish For (St. Martin's Press).
V.P. of the Chicago Writers Association, Executive Director of Let's Just Write! An Uncommon Writers Conference.
Visit me at www.samanthahoffman.com
Read my latest short story, Only One Syllable, published by Hypertext Magazine.
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