Reading Fiction to Improve Your Writing Skills

Most writers are voracious readers as well, devouring books as fast as our busy lives will allow us. This love of reading starts at a young age, as fairy tales and the magic of books turns us on to the allure of the written word. Yet, when we are struggling with our own writing, it is easy to forget to go back to the source, and read a few books to renew our first love.

There are so many variations of fiction writing available that it is hard to decide which ones to read first. As writers, we want to use our reading time to our best advantage, reading works that will infuse our writing with renewed enthusiasm and inspiration. It is difficult to just read for pleasure. I find myself picking apart stories as I go, commenting to myself on the author’s use of metaphor or point of view. Choosing the right story will help you relax your editor’s brain, allow you to be fully immersed in the story as you read it, and come away with new writing techniques.

Classic Vs. Modern Books

When most writers think of reading to inspire writing, they turn to the literary classics, books that we may have read in school that have been deemed timeless and well written. It can be fun to read these tomes of literature, and examining them for creative word play and stunning characterization. Millions of people have enjoyed these works, and many more will for years to come.

However, writing is a constantly evolving medium, spanning the centuries. Styles, topics of interest, and audiences have all changed over time. Therefore, the classic books may not help you write a fantastic novel today. Reading modern novels will keep you on the front page of writing style, and act as a breath of fresh air to your writing. If you already have a stack of new books waiting to be read – or queued up in your Kindle – enjoy them without a sense of guilt for not reading the classic works of literature.

Genre Novels Vs. Literary Fiction

Choosing what genre to read within is another point of contention for the reading writer. As a reader, you have your favorite genres to read within, which may or may not be the same as what you write within. For instance, I love writing fantasy stories, but I read fantasy, science fiction, and even the occasional romance novel. It is up to you to decide whether reading a story within your genre is inspiring or off-putting. A well-written book causes me to whip out my own notebook, and a poorly written one encourages me to write a story far and away better!

Literary works are considered the cream of the crop in writing circles, but often these novels aren’t written for the masses. Their artistic value as uniquely crafted wordplay tends to make them hard to follow for the average reader. If you enjoy literary works, by all means read them! If you don’t, then go ahead and pass them by for something that will refill your well.

Novels Vs. Short Stories

In writing, the length of the story does matter. Novels have room for lots of twists, turns, and subplots, weaving an engaging story that leaves the reader wanting even more. Short stories are powerful within their brevity, making a single, poignant statement within the confines of a few pages.

I usually let how much time I have to devote to reading determine what I’ll read. If I have an afternoon free, I’ll cozy up to a good book, and let myself be immersed in that world. If I need a quick break between writing sessions, I’ll grab a short story to renew my enthusiasm.

What kinds of reading do you enjoy? Do you let your reading materials enhance your writing, or do you fear it will influence it too much? Do you actively read for style and writing mechanics, or do you let the story carry you away?

The Pen is Mightier than the Cliché: Slash Them From Your Writing

Cliché: The Pen Is Mightier Than The SwordClichés are everywhere, by their very nature. They appear in movies, on television, and slip into our writing before we can catch ourselves. In fact, cliché comes from the French, meaning stereotype – although, in context, it refers to printing presses1, not actual preconceived notions. They are so popular because they were once witty turns of phrase, that have worn out due to overuse. Also, as humans, we use language to communicate as efficiently as possible. Clichés allow us to convey a lot of information about life in a few short words.

However, clichés make for poor writing. When a phrase has been used for so long, we rarely even hear it or read it anymore. This causes the reader to gloss over your words, causing confusion and disinterest. Too many instances of clichéd writing will make your writing boring and unappealing.

Transform Clichés Into Fresh Prose

Stop yourself when you catch yourself heading into a cliché trap. If you edit after you write, make a note to yourself that there is a cliché that needs editing out. If you edit as you go along, find a way around your cliché. Can your cliché be transformed into a new idea, just by altering a few words? Or should a new phrase be written in its place?

Examine the elements of the cliché, and decide if it is, in fact, what you wish to say. Sometimes, especially in dialogue, clichés can create a mood or indicate the origin of a character’s accent. Whenever you volunteer to let a cliché stay, be sure that there is no other way to write it. Use a light touch, and your readers will understand the impact of your phrase.

Fun Clichés to Play With

There are entire websites devoted to lists of clichés found in the English language. Some are universal, while others may be more common in certain areas of the world. Other languages also have their own clichés, which may not translate the same in English.

Here are a few clichés, and my way of transforming them into an exciting phrase. You can extrapolate your own ideas, and share them with us below!

  • Never look a gift horse in the mouth – I don’t know about you, but I’ve never actually met a horse with a gift. If I were tempted to use this admonishment in a story, I might twist it around to say “Never look in a horse’s mouth for a gift”, which could be a far more useful warning for the story.
  • A diamond in the rough – Again, another cliché that doesn’t quite make sense. You can’t polish a lump of coal and get a diamond. “A diamond with a few rough edges” would be more apt, but the phrase doesn’t have as much impact.
  • Leave no stone unturned – This phrase was probably considered clever once. Nowadays, unless you are looking for an insect, turning over stones won’t get you very far. A guard in one of my stories might say “Turn out all the peasants into the streets!” when looking for my hero.
  • A baker’s dozen – It is far easier to write the word thirteen, and takes less effort for the reader to understand. This cliché is unnecessary, unless used in dialogue as stated above.

Clichés are part of language for a reason, but can often be slashed out of your writing without anyone missing them. Don’t be afraid to play around with them, and see what can be done to polish them into outstanding witticisms. Just do not be surprised if the cliché is overworked to the point that it needs to be let go for good.

What are your favorite hackneyed clichés? Have you ever turned a tired phrase into a sterling piece of prose?

1 The Museum of Printing: Collection
Photo Credit: 01-21-06 © Adrian Hughes

Dream Journals for Writing Inspiration and Ideas

Writing Inspiration Through DreamingHumankind has always been fascinated by the world of dreams. While we sleep, our brain processes the myriad thoughts, images, and events of our lives, and creates surrealistic landscapes that entertain us. Dreams occur during the REM phases of sleep, and are considered a necessary and healthful part of life.

Dreams can become a wonderful source of writing inspiration. The imagery from your subconscious is unfiltered by your logical thought processes, and often combine the strange and unusual in unexpected ways. Dreams are often emotionally evocative, which is why you may wake up elated, scared, or upset after a particularly memorable dream. These experiences are worth recording and incorporating in your writing, to encourage such responses from your readers.

Make Dream Journaling a Habit

Although many people don’t remember their dreams, you can encourage yourself to remember your dreams by keeping a dream journal and a lamp beside your bed. If you wait until you get dressed and get your first cup of coffee, you most likely won’t remember much at all. Get into the practice of writing down anything you remember, before getting out of bed.

You may only remember a color or an emotion, instead of actual events occurring within your dream world at first. With time and practice, you will recall more about each dream, with more clarity. Don’t worry about whether or not what you are writing makes sense. As long as you can write somewhat legibly first thing in the morning, you will be able to come back and mine your dream journal for creative tidbits.

Dream Interpretation

While dreams are very creative and inspiring all by themselves, dream interpretation can add a new layer of clarity and depth to your dreams. There are many dream interpretation books and websites available, explaining what certain symbols mean in the conscious world. Even if you don’t believe that dreams are a reflection of your real life, using dream interpretation you can come up with new plots for your fiction writing.

The Dream Workbook: Discover The Knowledge and Power Hidden in Your Dreams by Jill MorrisAlso, pay attention to unusual aspects of your dreams. For example, I rarely dream in color or in audio. So when I do notice a color, or actually hear words, I do my best to remember them and see if they hold any meaning in my life. Color within a story works well as a metaphor for the theme of your story, or can simply set the mood in your setting or your character’s outfits. Audio doesn’t often translate as well into a novel, but snippets of dialog can be used from your dreams if you’re lucky enough to catch them.

Do you keep a dream journal? Have you ever used elements of your dreams in your writing? Has a story idea ever woken you up in the middle of the night?

Facebook Groups for Fiction Writers

One of the best ways to keep our writing skills fresh is by socializing with other writers. For those of us who don’t live in vibrant writing communities, online portals bring writers together from around the globe. Forums are the traditional online source for writing groups, but personally I have a hard time remembering to check back with various forums across a multitude of websites.

My solution is to have all of my online communities in one place. Facebook makes this possible for me with their Groups and Pages. I am already on Facebook for my friends and family, I might as well check in with the latest events in the writing community as well.

Three Fiction Writing Facebook Groups to Try

I recently discovered a new writing group called Writers Etc.. They frequently have guest speakers – insiders in the writing industry – who post discussions and answer writers’ questions. They also encourage writers to share their successes and failures, and are quickly becoming a warm, inviting place on the web.

Writing is another group that has lots of information for writers at all levels of experience and with varied interests. They promote writing conferences, contests, and job leads, and are a quick source of writing information for the busy writer.

Of course, we have our very own Facebook group as well! The Craft of Writing Fiction is another place to keep up with the latest developments, as well as participate in polls, voting, and sharing your opinion on various writing topics. Please stop on by and say hello, and keep an eye out for what is coming up next.

How to Find More Writing Groups

When I did a quick search using Facebook’s search tool, there were over five hundred matches for “writing groups”! However, many of the groups were quickly started and abandoned. There’s not much point in joining a group if no one is maintaining or participating within it.

Be sure to check when the latest wall posts and discussions were posted and commented on. An active, thriving group will likely have updated something within the past month or so. If not, don’t waste your time.

Check out your favorite writing blogs and forums to discover new groups. Many bloggers are discovering that Facebook is a great way to communicate with their readers, and if you’ve got a favorite blog (or one hundred), chances are that it has a Facebook presence.

You could always start your own writing group as well. Share leads, craft techniques, and resources, along with the camaraderie of meeting new writing friends. The ideas are limitless, as long as you have the drive to put them in action.

Do you have a favorite fiction writing group? Share them in the comments. Do you enjoy Facebook groups, or do you prefer a more hands-on approach to your writing communities?

Five Back-To-School Time Tips For Writers

Back to School for WritersThe school year was always the beginning of my year when I was in school, but as a writing parent I realize it is even more important to have everything in order and ready to go for the start of the school year.

My eldest daughter started kindergarten this year. Just to get her signed up, we had doctor’s appointments, paperwork to organize, an ice-cream social to meet the teacher, and the excitement of arriving on the first day and getting to know all her new friends. I’ve had to learn how to wake up earlier, adhere to stricter deadlines of when to get her to school and pick her up, and get used to a house that is one half quieter. All the while, my writing deadlines haven’t diminished!

Even writers who don’t have little ones in the house can benefit from starting their new year in September. The holiday season is fast approaching, and it’s best to have an established writing plan now before it begins. Here are a few tips I’ve picked up over the past month to help writers with the back-to-school blues.

School Is In Session!

  1. Get organized! Now is the time to make sure all your paperwork is in order. Evaluate your writing schedule, and see if it is still working effectively for you. Update your submissions and queries lists, and if you have a manuscript ready to be sent out, just hit send! Clean out your computer and filing cabinets, and backup your electronic files – or schedule them to be backed up on a regular basis. Take inventory of your supplies, and order more if you’re running low on paper, ink, or postage.
  2. Schedule a checkup. Writers don’t have the luxury of sick days, so make sure that you’ve had all your necessary doctor and dentist visits within the past year. Go ahead and schedule your next one too, so you won’t be tempted to put it off. Also schedule an hour or so where you can give your writer-life a checkup too. Have you met the goals you set for yourself last year? Or are you still wandering aimlessly without goals? Now is the time to evaluate your progress and pinpoint where you are heading.
  3. Make time to socialize. Writing does not happen in a vacuum, or within the confines of your comfy office chair. Online writing pals are a great resource, for laughs about the writing life and leads to new outlets for your stories. Find real life friends who help you give your mind a break and inspire your writing to fraternize with too.
  4. Evaluate your own education. One of the joys of being a writer is that you don’t need an Ivy League education to succeed, just a pencil and paper. However, you may need to take a quick online course to brush up on the finer points of style, or purchase an e-book on the writing life. It is never too late to further your education, whether it is through a brick and mortar university or by watching writing videos. Decide what level you’d like your writing to be at, and plan accordingly.
  5. Embrace the unexpected. Life’s curve balls are part of the plot twists and conflicts that enhance the quality of your fiction writing. When you have to navigate new experiences, do your best, learn from them, and then review them to see what might make a good plot point for your next story.

What is your back to school ritual? Do you consider it a new start to the year, or do you wait for New Year’s Day?

Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks

Minutiae – Adding Everyday, Basic Necessities To Your Story

Story Minutiae and Plot Details: The day to day living of life.In our daily lives, we have to make room for the minutiae of life. We eat, drink, take showers, and run errands. Our lives would fall apart without taking care of the basic necessities of living.

Our characters don’t often have the luxury of taking care of life’s minutiae when they are busy pursuing their goals. In the television series “24”, the hero Jack Bower must save the day, without taking any time for himself. He sets aside his personal needs when he pursues the enemy and protects the President. He doesn’t even have time to sleep!

Your characters may be in the middle of a similarly high-paced action story, or they may have a little more leeway. It is up to you to decide how much realism needs to be incorporated into your novel. Too much, and your readers could become bored. Too little, and your characters appear superhuman, unaffected by the basic requirements of living a healthy life.

Adding More Details to Your Story

When your writing is flowing freely, it is too easy to forget that your characters need a break. They may jump from one scene to another, overcoming foes and discovering new obstacles at every turn. While this makes for an exciting story, your characters can’t go on forever without some down time.

Sleep is one of the most important things that characters seem to forget to do. Allow them to set up camp for the night, or they may collapse from exhaustion in the middle of an important scene. Chapter breaks are great places to let your characters sleep on the past events, and prepare them to face a new day in pursuit of their goals.

Eating and drinking are also necessary if you want your characters to keep forging ahead. They may only have time to grab an apple and a swig of water, but that small detail will remind readers that your characters are realistic and susceptible to human concerns. Larger meals can be included to provide a respite from a speedy plot line, and to give your characters time to ruminate over their game plan.

Removing Minutiae From Your Story

Your story can become bogged down by too much detail. If every chapter ends with your heroine curling up in her cozy bed, her plight can sound trivial and mundane. Readers like stories that provide an escape from their everyday lives. Too many mundane activities can add up to a boring story.

If your characters have to get from point A to point B, they can do so either very quickly or very slowly in terms of your story. Noting that they arrived at their destination after three days of uneventful travel is perfectly fine. You don’t have to show every stop, every meal, and every conversation that doesn’t add to your story. Only include minutiae if it enhances your characterization or your plot line. When in doubt, throw it out.

It is very easy to add a mundane scene, just to act as filler while you’re thinking of what happens next in the story. If you need to keep the writing flowing, go ahead and write that scene at a roadside diner. It may provide important details to lead your characters in the right direction. If it doesn’t, you can always remove it later, and your story will keep up the pace.

Do you tend to write lean stories, without many human details? Or do you enjoy writing long descriptive passages about every meal? How do you strike a balance of real world concerns and exciting plot points?

Photo Credit: 07-07-08 © manley099

Story POV: Yours, Mine, and the Truth

Choosing your stories point of view (POV)

“There are three sides to every story: your side, my side, and the cold, hard truth.” ~ Don Henley

Choosing your point of view (POV) is one of the most critical aspects of your novel writing. Yet it is also one of the most automatic. Most writers leap into a story, and start writing from their main character’s perspective, in either the first or third person. This early decision can cause issues later on, if the point of view isn’t the ideal one for your story.

POV is also one of the main tools that establishes the narrative mode of your story. It dictates how involved your readers become, by limiting how much information your characters are able to reveal. It brings a unique perspective to the story, which can drastically change if you rewrite a passage with a different point of view. Take a look at some of the most commonly used points of view in literature, and see if your writing could benefit from a perspective face lift.

First Person POV

Your main character speaks directly to your audience, using “I, me, mine”. When using the first person, you are restricted to revealing only one character’s inner thoughts. Your readers see the world through your protagonist’s eyes only, learning new facts only when they are discovered by your hero. Descriptions of your setting, other characters, and obstacles are all filtered through the POV character’s perspective.

This technique is particularly effective when you are writing a character driven story. Your theme will often depend on the character’s personal growth, inner transformation, and the struggles she faces. It is less effective when you need to be able to switch your perspective from character to character, as readers may struggle when presented with another first person point of view within a story. You may try switching characters at chapter breaks, but readers will greatly identify with the character whose head they’ve been in from the beginning, and may resist the unusual break in perspective.

Third Person Limited POV

Your narrator or narrative voice speaks about your characters, using “he, she, them” while focusing primarily on one or two characters. You still retain some of your authority as a writer, and can describe the rest of the story’s world without the need to take your protagonist’s perspective into consideration. Usually, the story will focus on only one character within a chapter, and perspective switches occur at chapter breaks.

Romances are a great example of when two characters share the protagonist role, and when third person limited is split between two characters. However, be on the lookout for when your point of view slides into another person’s perspective without you realizing it. This can cause confusion for your readers, who may not understand why your story is being seen through another person’s eyes all of a sudden. Also, make sure that you don’t unintentionally reveal facts and thoughts that your protagonist cannot know, or else your story’s continuity can be undermined.

Third Person Omniscient POV

Your narrator speaks in a similar way to third person limited, except that they can reveal anything and everything about your characters. The sky’s the limit here, as you can begin with a grand overview of your book’s world, and then zoom in to the perspective of a bumblebee. This perspective is excellent for plot driven stories, where you need to jump from scene to scene taking place in various areas of the world.

However, third person omniscient is also one of the most difficult perspectives to do well. If you jar your readers too much by jumping around, they may lose interest and set your story down. While you can do anything you want, you probably shouldn’t. Guide your readers through your story with grace and skill, and they will be blown away by the expansiveness and complexity of your tale.

Choose a passage from your latest story, and determine what POV you have used. Try rewriting it another point of view, and see how your story changes! What is your favorite point of view?

Photo Credit: Dreamglow Pumpkincat210

Avoid Plot Potholes On The Storytelling Highway

Three Plot Potholes - Danger Signs And WarningsWhen driving along the storytelling highway, you are bound to run across a few plot potholes that could send you and your story out of control. Even if you have your trusty map – the plot outline – at your side, it will not always prevent you from running into weather-beaten ruts, perilous potholes, or unexpected road blocks. This is a frustrating scenario for any writer to find herself in, as it appears that the best laid plans are dissolving right before her eyes.

When driving a vehicle, you have a few options for overcoming obstacles to your destination. You can keep moving forward, no matter how treacherous, damaging, or slow-going the terrain will be. You can follow established detour routes, which may make for a smoother ride but can slow your trip considerably. You can kick in the four wheel drive and take it off-road, which can be exhilarating, but can also be more dangerous than the original obstacle.

You can also make a u-turn and head back home, but you wouldn’t want to do that, right? Here are some of the most common plot potholes you may encounter in fiction writing, and solutions to make the storytelling highway a much smoother ride.

Plot Problem 1: Characters Veering Off the Path

Anyone who has been the navigator on a cross-country trip knows the perils of a driver who wants to go off the beaten path. “Hey, there’s a billboard for the World’s Largest Ball of Twine! Let’s go check it out,” your hero says, and the next thing you know your vehicle is turning off on the next exit, into unfamiliar territory. When the characters in your story get distracted by something equally as shiny – and unrelated to the story at hand – it is hard to resist dramatically reaching over and taking the steering wheel out of their hands.

The real world solution is very similar to the literary solution – let the hero get it out of his system. Go and see the amazing roadside attraction, by writing out the unruly scene in your story. Then you will be able to see whether or not the detour was justified. You might be surprised to find that the plot needed a side trip after all, to reinforce the theme of the story, create a new subplot, or to give the protagonist time to think of a solution. Even if the scene needs to be cut out later on, your hero may learn his lesson, and listen to you the next time you tell him to follow your outline.

Plot Pothole 2: Plot Screeching to a Halt

Obstacles like closed roads and dead ends bring your plot to a screeching halt.You are writing right along, and then find yourself at a dead end. You have no idea where to go next. Your outline doesn’t give you any clues on how to navigate your way out. Even asking your characters for ideas gets you nowhere. Your plot is stuck in the mud, and you’re tempted to call a tow truck to get you out of the muck.

This plot pothole usually appears when your outline isn’t as strong as you thought it was. You know your characters need to get from point A to point B, but you weren’t completely sure how they were going to do it. Now that you’re on your way, the problem appears much larger and more difficult to navigate. Your best bet is to take a break, and approach your plot problem with fresh eyes. Talk it over with some writing friends, and possibly add a new element or two to the story that can give you more options. Make sure your characters are adequately motivated and equipped to handle the problem, and with a little ingenuity, they can make it out in no time.

Plot Pothole 3: Spiraling Out of Control

When the writing is flowing freely, it is easy to fly by crucial elements of your story. The pacing of your novel may go entirely too fast, as you send your characters zooming towards goal after goal. They don’t get a chance to breathe or process anything that has happened to them. When you finally hit a pothole, your story flies out of your hands. You haven’t taken the time to get to know your characters, and they are overwhelmed and exhausted.

Even in the most exciting, high paced thriller, you need to give your characters slower scenes, where they can pause and decide what to do next. Allow them to pull over, stretch their legs, and examine how far they have gotten in pursuit of their goals. After a high-speed chase, be sure to pause, so your story has natural highs and lows while getting you ever closer to your conclusion. You wouldn’t drive for 24 hours without a break, and your characters need down time as well.

What plot potholes have you encountered when writing? Do you have techniques for avoiding or powering through the most troublesome stumbling blocks? Your solution may be just what another writer needs to keep writing through their novel.

Photo Credit: 11-11-06 © Stratesigns, Inc.
Photo Credit: 09-02-08 © Alex Potemkin

Fictional Character Names: Six Techniques For Name Creation

I have no name: I am but two days old. What shall I call thee? ~ William Blake

When you first meet a new fictional character, she will often reveal herself slowly. Maybe first, a mental image of her general appearance, or a quick glimpse at her situation and goals. You feel excited as you begin to plan your story or outline, and rush to your keyboard or notebook.

Before that first sentence is written, you come upon an unsettling discovery. You don’t know your character’s name! Often, new characters are not forthcoming with their names, and you have to rack your brain to come up with one, instantly short-circuiting the writing process.

A name is a crucial yet overlooked part of the author’s decision making process. People form associations with different names, and a character named “Sir William T. Rutherford of Devonshire” will create a different impression from one named “Willie McGee”. Here are some considerations when naming a fictional character.

Fictional Character Naming Techniques

  1. Consider your story’s setting. Odd place to start, right? A modern day setting lends itself to names we are all familiar with, while a historical setting often has more elaborate names, including the character’s title and homeland. In a futuristic story, a fictional characters name can be as familiar or fantastical as you desire!
  2. Research the setting. If your story is in a small town, it’s quite possible that you could unintentionally come up with the name of a real human being. A quick trip to the yellow pages can save you a lot of grief later on in the writing process. Historical stories also face the problem of copying the name of a real world figure, although some writers do choose to incorporate public figures into their novels.
  3. Compare other character names. If you’ve already named a few of your characters, review how their names work together. Their name can give subtle clues about your characters’ ethnicity, social status, and how they see themselves (in the case of nicknames). Look out for alliteration! Readers can become confused when multiple characters’ names start with the same letter.
  4. Browse baby naming books and websites. Hundreds of thousands of names can be found in baby naming literature, saving both parents and writers a lot of time and trouble. They often including name meanings and origins, which can help your character portray the right characteristics.
  5. Examine your friends’ and family members’ names – for names not to choose! No one wants to try to explain to a loved one that they did not write a story about them. Play it safe, and put those names on your permanent “Do Not Name” list.
  6. Create your own name. If nothing is calling out to you, you can always piece together your own name. Science fiction and fantasy novels often include otherworldly names, which look like a random mishmash of syllables. As long as your name follows conventional linguistic patterns, readers should be able to pronounce the name to themselves while reading. (A tip: No more than three consonants go in a row without a vowel in most English words.)

How do you decide on your characters’ names? Do they come fully equipped with names, or do you have to coax them out? Have you ever created your own name? Share your techniques here!

Recommended: Five more tips for writers on naming fictional characters at

Photo Credit: 05-28-06 © Ronald Bloom

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