Editing – When You Are Done or As You Go?
Posted by LizzyBeth
To continue my theme of editing this month, I want to consider timing.
I struggle with the need/desire to edit as I write. For a writer, I have terrible spelling and my grammar is not what it should be. Therefore, I am constantly hitting backspace and glaring at the perpetual red squiggles under words that I have unconsciously misspelled. (Just writing that sentence, I had three misspellings and I hit backspace at least a dozen times – confessions are not easy). All that to say, I have to edit certain aspects of my writing as I go.
I know that some people turn off the red squiggles because they find it distracting. I congratulate any of you who can pull that off. Perhaps it is the better method for writing. It was suggested that those who were participating in NaNoWriMo do so, because the point was to write and got the raw story out on paper – the faster the better. However, if I just wrote and did not have the spell checker on, I’d never know what I was trying to say when I went back to edit.
Setting aside the need for some practical editing while we go, when is the best time to edit?
Is it better to edit as you go – chapter by chapter, or section by section?
Or is it when you are completely done, staring at the last words of the story?
I see the advantages of both approaches. Edit as you go, keeps the story fresh and allows you to incorporate ideas as they come to you. If you think of a chapter or a section of the story that isn’t quite right any more because of “new” insight, you feel free to go back and make the change. While editing only when you are done, keeps you focused on the end goal – finishing the story. If you think of something that you want to go back and change, simply make a note and keep writing. You can make the change later when you’re making all the changes.
As I have mentioned, I am an edit as you go sort of person. This is in fact a problem for me, because I don’t finish things. I get caught up in the editing – making that chapter better or fixing that character or plot hole – that I forget to actually finish the story. I get lost in the editing. My stories live forever in the vague domain of somewhere between “I’m actually writing something new” and “I’m perfecting what has already been written” to the detriment of the story’s completion. My friends and fellow authors have prompted me to abandon the editing process and “just write the story already!” But I am reluctant. I can honestly say that NaNoWriMo has helped me. I did not edit as much as I went along. When you have a word count and a deadline, editing is too time consuming.
I am curious, what do you think is the best “when” to edit? Are you an “edit as you go” person or an “ardent edit when finished” person?
Happy writing and happy editing!