Monday, October 21, 2013

Wrestling the Internal Editor - I LET Her Win

I'm going to be doing a series of posts on common writing rules and why I think they are or aren't a good idea. We all know sometimes rules can and should be broken, but you have to understand them first. So leave me a comment (or send me an email) suggesting a rule you'd be interested in hearing my opinion on. I'll start those after Halloween (because I have a spooktacular post for you all next week with a ghost and a review). 

Today's rule is editing as you go. 

I know it's been said many times that you shouldn't edit as you write. The main reason being that you'll never get anywhere if you keep going back to fix what you have. But the truth is - I'm a closet editor. As I go that is. Not to the point that I'm changing the same word fifty times, but I do go back before I'm done. WHY? Why do I choose to break this rule you ask? 

Well, it could be that I'm a badass force to be reckoned with. Ha! No. 

It could be that I'm weak and can't resist the urge. Um, yeah I do have problems with patience, but no. That's not the reason.

It's because sometimes I feel that I can't go forward without fixing things right then if I recognize a problem that will wind its way through my manuscript. It's sort of like building a tower of blocks, knowing that the foundation row is wobbly. If you don't fix it early on, it's only going to get worse. 

So if I realize I'm missing a character for example (yes that's happened before), I go back and thread her through to the point I'm at before I continue. It's an important step in order to go forth with my manuscript. 

What if I'm working on a paragraph and I use a cliche? Ah. That's a bit trickier. It certainly will slow me down to fix the wording and again, most people will say NO. But... if I can challenge myself right then and there to think of a better way to say it? I do it. You know why? Because it makes me feel better about going forward. It's going to have to be done anyhow. 

See, I think that's a rule for beginners. Not to say I'm any better at writing necessarily, but it all depends WHY you're doing what you're doing. If you've never accomplished a finished manuscript you have to make that your first goal. You have to KNOW you can do it. So if you're fixing and messing about in order to avoid having to do what's tough or scary then quit it!!!

But if you're doing what you feel you should in order to build a stronger foundation for the rest and you're fully intending to go forward, go for it. 

That's my two cents about this "rule". What do you think? 


  1. I outline extensively before I start, but that doesn't mean things don't change as I write the first draft. Usually I won't go back and edit based on that, unless I really know what I need to do and it can't wait. Otherwise, I just jot a note to myself in my Scrivener sidebar so I know it needs to be dealt with in the second draft. As more micro-editing as I write the first draft. Doesn't happen. When writing my first draft, I'm more concerned about reaching daily writing goals than editing. If I edit, then I'd never get much written.

  2. Guess I'm a BA right along with you. I do think, at times, editing on the go slows me down. However, I'm like you. I can't fully move forward unless I fix it so it doesn't affect the story later on. I'm talking about plot, holes, and character arc, here. Grammatical errors can wait - well, at least for me...sometimes. :)

  3. I like to read why I wrote the day before so I can get into the right frame of mind. If I see something that didn't work, I fix it. I don't nit-pic it in terms of having it perfect because I know I may cut the whole deal during the 2nd draft.

  4. I do what Southpaw does. A bit of distance makes it easy to see changes you want or need to make. As to rules I like to break: starting sentences with And and But is one. Writing in fragments is another.

  5. I'm glad I'm not the only closet editor. I love editing best so at least review and edit what I've just written before moving on. And yes, it's slower but I'm thinking I'll have fewer big revisions of the manuscript. We'll see how it goes.

  6. I think it depends on the writer. I go back and edit while I write. Sometimes it's as little as re-reading a scene after an absence so I can get back into it and making small changes as I go. Sometimes it's bigger, like adding characters, or themes, or subplots. Sometimes I make notes and promise to come back to it. It depends on the day, the problem and what I'm in the middle of. A writer just needs to listen to themselves and the story and do what's best for both.

  7. I don't look back. At all. Not until draft one is completely done. I outline a lot before I start, and use index cards for scenes. I do make a list of notes as I go, such as questions I might want to add or something like that. But go back and make changes while I'm writing draft one? No way. For me, that first draft is the hardest part. I must get through it and make it pretty later.

    But we all have a system that works for our personalities, and that's what I love about writing. There's not one right way. The right way is the way that works for the writer!

  8. Drafting is hard for me, even though I outline (somewhat), so forward progress is important. But so is knowing that there aren't huge holes in my story. So I do edit as I draft. It's a good thing different writing processes work for each of us.

  9. I agree that's a rule for beginners who might rewrite their openings a hundred times. I try to take notes as I go for the rewrites. I might do a little editing, but not much. :)

  10. I'm with Southpaw and Lee. I backup and read the previous days work so I can forge on from there. I'll also jump back to a spot if I get a new inspiration.