Editing on the Fly Versus Editing Later

I’ll wager that a lot of you young writers (and especially you perfectionists) are obsessed with creating a perfect product. You can’t sleep at night if you wrote a block of your book that was unedited. So you get up at three o’clock in the morning to edit it and are finally able to get a (damaged) night’s sleep.

This is bad for you, and not just because your boss might fire you in the morning because you were three hours late to work (hey! You’re a creative writer! Think of an excuse!). You need your sleep, but you really need to save the editing process until the whole book is finished.

Here’s the problem with the Spontaneous Editing Process (also known as SEP): not only does it allow for perfectionism, it encourages it. Now, I’m all for shootin’ for the stars. The sky’s the limit, and you should always make excellence your aim. The trouble is, in writing, “perfect” is unachievable, because any random Joe-off-the-streets will always tell you that you used such and such a word wrong or you should replace this phrase with something else or that this character would be better off as a miner instead of a farmer. “Perfect” is not possibly attainable. But you can do your best.

Perfectionism is definitely out. So that means that editing on the spot is a very bad idea. The other problem with SEP is that it is extremely discouraging. The writing process becomes exponentially more difficult and it is way harder to see the end of your work. Essentially, it slows down your work a ton.

What seems shorter: crawling over a stretch of land that would take you half an hour if your crawled or walking over a stretch of land that would take you half an hour if you walked? Crawling (or just moving at a slower pace) kills your morale, because you know that you’re crawling. It makes you feel miserable and discouraged (and tired). Writing becomes a brutal chore. Worst of all, it makes you want to quit.

In order for most ordinary people to complete long tasks, there needs to be a sense of “I-think-I’m-making-progress-here”. The #1 reason for people quitting long or difficult tasks is because they feel they’re not making any progress. You need to create a feeling of progress to motivate yourself.

So there are some solid reasons why SEP is not optimal. Break your rules as far as writing your paragraph (or page, or word count) for the day goes. Don’t go back and edit it immediately. I always wait until the end of my book to edit, but if you want to go back every few chapters or so (or even ever chapter) that’s fine. but if you feel like you’re going nowhere, cut back on the editing.

A good technique to practice in place of SEP is freewriting. Freewriting is like when you were brainstorming ideas for a high school paper: everything in your brain goes down on paper as soon as you think of it. Whatever words, ideas, or actions come to the forefront of your mind, jot it down on paper. Don’t let anything hinder the creative flow of your brain.

Of course, this means the editing process will have to become harsher and more exacting. But as I like to say, “Write like there’s no tomorrow.” Don’t be afraid of a difficult editing process, because I guarantee it’s not going to be harder than the actual process of writing.

Freewriting lets you progress the fastest and it gets the most on paper. This is a far better alternative than slow-moving SEP, which promotes perfectionism and doesn’t allow you to move as fast. You get the point: save the editing process for later.

Good luck, and happy writing!

Be sure to check out my latest novel, Book 1 in the Praetors of Lost Magic Series, and our Publications page. Until then, writers!


Published by Van Ghalta

A cold, dark, mysterious character who purposefully wrote a story so that he could fit into it...A story where he himself WRITES stories, practices martial arts, blogs, plays airsoft, collects MTG trading cards, plays outdated video games, and writes weird, third-person bios for himself...

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