To Edit or Not to Edit: How to Approach Writing and Editing Simultaneously

Posted on September 13, 2013


ImageFor some, the mere mention of editing as you write is a huge breach of conduct in the laws of writing. It’s simply something you are “not supposed to do.” However, as a writer, I have to object to this assumption that editing while writing is always bad.

I must argue based on the simple fact that there aren’t exactly any real laws when it comes to writing. Everyone has their own approach to writing, and it is, by definition, a creative pursuit. Outside of the strict confines of academia, is there really a wrong approach? As long as the end result—having the chance to communicate effectively to an audience—is achieved, can someone claim that one author’s methods are incorrect compared to another’s?

Now, this doesn’t mean that all advice is useless. There are definitely both successful and less successful methods out there for writing faster or “better.” The trouble is that even the success rates for these tips and approaches are often subjective. What works well for one writer might slow you down when you try the same technique.

For some, editing is a process that must be kept separate from writing the first draft. They will get too caught up in editing versus writing and make minimal progress. For others, editing and revising is an integral part of every stage of their work. Maybe you’re not sure where you belong on this scale because you haven’t yet figured out which method works for you.

Here are my personal tips for editing and writing simultaneously. Use these guidelines if you wish…but more importantly, discover which method you prefer. Experiment until you have a writing technique that works for you.

  1. 1.      Reword awkward sentences immediately.

In my experience, if I notice that I’ve written an awkward sentence, I want to revise immediately. The sentence begs for my attention and it is hard to go on and focus on new sentences if a previous one is garbled. I’ve also discovered that if I don’t address the problem right then, while ideas are fresh, I often forget what my intended meaning was when I return to the section later. Then the idea is lost forever. No, you don’t want to slow down as you write a rough draft, but you also don’t want to write so quickly that most of your ideas are lost in an excited stream of gibberish.

  1. 2.      Don’t overthink.

On the flipside of the “edit immediately” philosophy, remember that you are writing. If you spend too much time reading and rereading over a sentence that you think sounds awkward but can’t decide what’s wrong with it or how to revise, move on. Wrestling with one particular section of your work for too long will interrupt your muse, and therefore the flow and progress of your writing. It’s best to edit as you can but keep it to a minimum. If you find you’re spending more than a couple minutes looking up a synonym, flipping through a dictionary, or rewriting a troublesome paragraph, you’re probably overthinking. Give yourself a break. Go back to it later.

  1. 3.      Distance yourself from your writing.

Along the lines of taking a break comes the age-old advice to distance yourself from your writing. This advice is used so often in the world of editing and writing because it rings true. But it proves true not only after you’ve finished writing, but also during the writing process. In college, I would take periodic 5 to 10-minute breaks when I was in the midst of my best paper-writing sessions. I knew I was procrastinating if my breaks extended for too long, but if they remained short and refreshing, I made excellent progress. Stepping away from your laptop can be the best choice you make. You’ll keep your writing clearer and remain focused. It will help you come up with more ideas and write precisely as you gather your thoughts. If you take these “refreshers” regularly, your chances of pounding out too much incomprehensible information on your keyboard and spending extensive time editing later are less likely.

  1. 4.      Don’t get distracted with petty problems.

Spelling, punctuation, and correct grammar are minor issues that can easily and quickly be corrected by you or an editor later. Being a spelling master isn’t a requirement for being a good writer. Don’t let small problems distract you from major ones, or from your goal at this stage—which is, simply, to write!

As I said before, there is no right or wrong way to approach writing. Use these tips, adapt them to best suit you, or follow a completely different list of advice—whatever you do, personalize the process. Figure out what helps you reach your goals and then stick with it. Now, get out there and write!

Rachel Schade, Writer, Editor, and Publishing Coordinator, Asta Publications

Asta Publications has a long history of helping writers tell their stories and get published. Since 2004, Asta Publications has helped hundreds of authors bring their book concepts to life and we are ready to help you too! Our dedication to our authors is unmatched. We deliver first-class products and services that are accurate, high quality, and exceed our authors’ expectations.

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