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

To Begin: Breaking Through The Blank Page

There is nothing more dreadful to a writer than staring at a blank page on the computer. There is a sense of stage fright that hangs in the shadows, taunting your every attempt to begin writing the grand novel or article that has inspired your soul. The number of words looking to take that blank page to a completed piece scream in your mind as your heart begins to race. You are there, facing the firing squad in your mind. You are a writer. WHY CAN’T YOU WRITE?

First, take a deep breath. It’s only letters placed in such a manner as to form a word. That word will begin the sentence. The sentence will begin the paragraph and the paragraph starts a chapter. Beginning the chapter means you’ve officially begun the work you’ve set your sights upon. Congratulations!

Recently I had the privilege of chatting with a few writer friends online. As the conversation turned to beginnings, I chuckled at how I had begun writing this very piece, though unfinished. I had begun, something one writer was struggling with on her own. I mentioned at that point I was working an article tailored specifically to beginnings – and she couldn’t wait to read it for herself.

Having an idea is only one part to writing. To be a writer you must write.

Beginnings can be quite ugly. Especially if you have ignored that calling to sit down and write for any amount of time. It doesn’t matter what you do to start, what matters is that you’ve placed a word on a page and began expanding upon it to form a sentence; there go, writing.

What is incredible about writing – whether by pen or through typing – is the opportunity to edit that ugly beginning once the middle and end are complete. As a writer, you might produce one brilliant piece in your lifetime. That doesn’t mean that the rest of what you write is garbage. It just means the editor in you has to come out, but not until after you’ve written.

Taking the time to journal or freewrite about the subject you desire to write about will help break the silence that sends you into a near anxiety attack. Journaling and freewriting also reduce the stress you feel by the editor that nestles inside. It is only when we are writing an article or a large work of art that the editor likes to cause a disruption.

Next time you are looking to begin an article, short story, or novel; begin first by writing in your journal and transfer that writing to your blank page to reduce your anxiety. After all, it matters not how you begin, but that you do.

Do you ever struggle with the blank page? What do you do to get past the anxiety and begin?

Free Write Against the Blank Page

A Guest Post By Kimberlee Ferrell.
Enjoying small town life and her two daughters, Kimberlee Ferrell still carves out time to write. Her blog, Freedom Writing, explores writing, parenting, and anything that flows out of her pen. Stop by to investigate the inner workings of her mind, and to learn more about her copywriting, proofreading, and editing expertise. Strong coffee and walnut brownies will be provided.

The blank page stares me in the face again. I am trying to write this post, but the lack of words on the screen paralyzes me. It causes the greatest writers among us to freeze up, and decide to wash the dishes, walk the dog, or do anything else but stare back at the empty canvas.

As writers, we face this on a daily basis. With each new article, blog post, or short story, we come full circle, to give birth to a new idea, to share our words with others. We turn to a fresh page in our notebooks or turn on our processing program, then stop. The glaring white page is empty, and our minds fill with doubts. “Where should I begin?” “What should I write about?” “Does anyone care about what I have to say?” “Are there really any original ideas?”

These thoughts and doubts can instantly send your muse to a vacation in the Bahamas, without you. There is a way to rekindle your writing: the free write. Many writers have used this technique to work past their writer’s block, and write no matter how they feel. I first discovered this exercise in Natalie Goldberg’s book, Writing Down the Bones. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in free writing, or just looking for an excellent read. She illustrates how to free write without expectations, and how to mine your first draft for those golden nuggets of exposition.

There are many ways to free write, and there is no one right way. There are two key techniques that I use when free writing. I set a timer in my head or on my desk, to give myself an immediate deadline. I also never stop writing for any reason. Do not be tempted to fix your spelling or grammar, save it for the editing phase. Choose one of these free writes the next time your fingers refuse to hit the keyboard.

Write the thoughts running through your head. When your inner editor casts doubts on everything from your lack of vocabulary to what you ate for breakfast, get it out on paper. Write whatever is bothering you at this moment. Set a timer for 10 minutes, and just keep writing every random thought that enters your head, whether it is related to writing or not. Let your mind dump its cluttered thoughts onto the page, and then set it aside. Your mind can relax, knowing you have addressed whatever was bothering you. Plus, you have written a few hundred words. Keep the momentum going, and dive into your writing project.

Write anything about your chosen topic. Sometimes you don’t know where to begin. Give yourself permission to dive headfirst into your topic, and write anything about it. Don’t worry about writing a captivating lead, or placing your thoughts into logical order. Cover the length and breadth of your topic, as the ideas come to you. You can always organize it later. This technique unearths new ideas I hadn’t considered before, adding depth to the final draft.

Write down topic ideas. This free write can be written traditionally, or in list form. Brainstorm a list of anything you want to write about. You can write a list of article titles, blog ideas, or conflicts for your main character. Once you have exhausted your list of ideas, go back over each and write a few sentences to flesh out your idea in more detail. This technique generates a lot of new leads over a short period of time.

Write something completely different. When your current project is wholly uninspiring, try writing something in a different topic, genre, or format. For example, if you are having trouble writing another SEO article, write a few pages of your novel instead. Once you’ve given your brain some free time, you can switch back to your project and get to work.

These are just a few of the possible ways you can use free writing to rejuvenate your writing juices. Once you start to write, the words come quick and easy.

The key is to sit down, and just write.

How have you incorporated free writes into your writing life? Do you have any other types of free writes to share? Leave a comment to let everyone know what works for you when you encounter the blank page.