Little Things You Should Know: Know When to Edit

Posted by Rita Lorraine

Hi Everybody,

Just thought I’d touch on self-editing for a bit. Now, true writers know they have to edit their work. Only a newbie would believe you can send out work that’s never been edited—and expect it to be scooped up and published.

Write now...Edit later, Know when to edit, Rita Writes History

Write now...Edit later.

But just when does one edit? Some writers start editing the nano-second the pen makes contact with the paper. So, before they can even get the words “Once upon a time” written, they re-wind and frantically start scratching words out: “Once upon a time,” becomes “Once not long ago,” which becomes “One time,” which morphs into simply, “Once.”

This, my friends, is a waste of time and energy. YES, you do need to edit, but NO, you don’t need to do it right away. The general rule of thumb is:

1. Write your story.

2. Write ALL YOUR STORY. That’s right, spit it all out…on the paper, that is.

3. Don’t worry about grammar or spelling. You’ve got plenty of time to take care of that.

4. Don’t worry about factual details. You can do your fact-checking later.

5. Don’t worry about how much money your story will make. Leave the things of tomorrow to suffice unto themselves.

6. DO think about the audience you’re targeting, and write for them.

7. Finish your story; all of it.

8. Once you’re finished, put your story away for a week or so (or a day…or even an hour, depending upon how long you can bear to be away from your precious baby).

9. EDIT.

10. Edit first for story. In other words, make sure your written work truly tells the story you were aiming to tell.

11. Edit next for plot. Make sure your plot makes sense.

12. Edit next for clarity.

13. Edit next for continuity.

14. Edit next for audience.

15. Edit for errors.

16. Edit next for your critique group.

17. Edit, edit, edit.

18. Once you’re done editing, realize that you really need to edit again.

I know this seems to be a lot of editing…and it is, but the point is, there’s a time to edit. That time is usually at the end–AFTER you’ve written your story.

So the next time you sit down to write, do yourself a favor and DON’T edit right away. Fight the feeling, no matter how powerful it is (and believe me, the editing spirit is pretty powerful). Get that next great American novel out of you first, get it down on paper, and then you can edit ‘til your heart’s content.

Hope this tip helps you.

Best wishes and happy writing,

Rita Lorraine

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  • I enjoyed this very much. I have the first draft of a novel now – the first one of many I’ve started. I got to ‘the end’ with this one by just devoting every moment to the writing for a month. Now, though, it’s time to work of the second draft. I have your thoughts here to help me with it.

    • Rita Lorraine Hubbard

      Hi Carolyn,
      I’m so glad you stopped by. Congrats on your first draft. What’s your genre? I try to list competitions, etc. for various genres. If it’s a YA, be sure to check out my latest post on the Gotham Writer’s 250 word competition. Even though you’re in the editing stage, Gotham is accepting 250 words as a screening process to find up-and-coming writers. You never know where competitions will lead, but one thing’s for sure, they help keep your mind sharp and your writing tight.

      Best wishes,
      Rita Lorraine

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