Editing As You Write: The Pros And Cons

Editing as you write your flash fiction, short story, or novel.Do you find yourself editing as you write? Do you prefer to keep the writing and editing processes separate? All writers have an opinion about how and when to edit your work-in-progress. Some storytellers let their writing flow uninterrupted, leaving a trail of spelling errors and typos in their wake. Other writers prefer careful editing of their piece after each writing session (or page, or paragraph, or sentence), examining each scene or chapter carefully and fine tuning it into a work of written art.

I use a mix of both techniques. I can’t stand looking at the red squiggly lines appearing below my errors, so I quickly backspace and fix my glaring errors while writing a scene. I even enter my characters’ names into my dictionary, so I don’t have a messy document. However, larger changes, such as carving up a scene, I save until much later on. That much reworking would knock my writer’s hat off my head, leaving only my editor’s hat.

Pros of Consistently Editing

  1. You’ll finish with a more polished manuscript, which will require less editing after it is completed.
  2. You can keep track of how your plot, subplot, and story arc are progressing, and rely less on your memory.
  3. If you find a major plot hole that requires a complete restructuring of your story, you can fix it immediately and not find yourself at a dead end later.
  4. Your characters will be less likely to wander off on tangents that are unrelated to the story at hand.
  5. The story will have much more continuity, and you won’t have to search to change every instance of an incorrect fact.
  6. Grammatical errors are much easier to spot when reading smaller chunks of a story.

Cons of Constantly Editing

  1. The flow of the story will be harder to maintain when you are stopping and starting repeatedly.
  2. The critical side of you required to edit properly can bring your mood down, draining your motivation.
  3. You may pick apart a scene to pieces, so that it falls apart and is no longer usable in your story.
  4. You may forget your place in the story, and stop writing much sooner than you intended.
  5. Your daily word count may be lower, and your progress will be harder to track.
  6. If you find a problem that requires major work, you may not know how to fix it, which will halt you in your tracks.

So what’s the verdict? Each writer has their own writing and editing style. What works for me won’t necessarily work for you. As long as it is actually working, then keep it up! If not, go over the pros and cons, and decide for yourself.

Weigh in on the editing debate! Which method do you find yourself doing most often? Do you have more pros or cons to add to the list? Share your editing experiences here.

Photo Credit: Nic McPhee

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Kimberlee Ferrell

As a freelance writer and blogger, Kimberlee Ferrell has developed some keen insights on web publishing. She is capable of crafting superior articles, blog posts, and web copy that can empower your business, helping you to get noticed in the digital sea. She has lived in multiple states all across the U.S., and has a unique worldview and a fresh perspective to incorporate in your freelance writing needs. From the midnight lights of Las Vegas to the down home hospitality of Huntsville, she has used each experience to hone her writing skills and expand her knowledge. Now located in small town Iowa, she has renovated her freelance writer career. Her main areas of focus are tarot, spirituality, and writing.

5 thoughts on “Editing As You Write: The Pros And Cons”

  1. It depends on what I’m writing. If it’s a short story, then I edit as I go. Like you, I can’t stand the red squiggles! When I am finished I tend to have a completed work in front of me.

    However, when I’m in the midst of NaNoWriMo, I have to squelch my inner editor and just keep going. I add lots of things in brackets such as [add info here about the hero’s family!] so that I can come back later and not be weighed down in the moment. With NaNo, time (and the 50k word count) is of the essence, so I only repair serious typos that I know I will never be able to decipher later on.

  2. I found the list of pros and cons of editing as you write very useful. I think all authors should have a mix of both strategies: writing furiously when inspiration strikes, but editing after writing a paragraph or a chapter.

    I do a little bit of both, but I also edit furiously while working. If a sentence or even a word doesn’t sound right, I’ll go back and change it before continuing. Even when I think I’ve finished, I’ll go back and read the document five times before changing just one word or phrase. There are some times when I just type away without thinking about editing, but I more often write just a few paragraphs and then go back and edit.

    Here’s another interesting topic for discussion: As an author, do you ever write more than one story at once? Like, you get an idea for a new story while writing and want to work on it before you forget. Do you start work on your new story or do you jot down some notes about it so you can work on it later?

  3. I am a newby to the world of writing and have taken on the challenge of writing a novel. Everytime I return to my manuscript, I reread a handful of pages from where I previously left off. This not only helps me return to that place in my mind where I can feel the story and carry on writing in that mindset, I can also correct/perform rewrites as I go.

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