Here are a couple of quotes that I would like to share (I can’t tell you at the moment who to credit for them, but if you know, leave a comment at the bottom of this post.):
“Editing kills the creative process”
“Writing is the honeymoon, editing is the marriage”
Both quotes tell you something about how writers feel about editing their work, although the later may tell you a little more about the writer feels about his life as well.
When I first started trying my hand in writing fiction, I could spend hours on a single night “writing” and end up with only 300 new words actually written. In my case, editing wasn’t that dreadful thing you do to your first draft after you finish it, instead it was a dreadful thing that was preventing me from even finishing the first draft.
I think this is a terribly common problem for many new writers. You write a sentence–maybe even a paragraph–and then read it over. And then you read it over again. And again. And then you try to “fix” it. And then you delete it.
I remember one night sitting down and rewriting the same sentence over and over for like an hour before going back and just using the original one. In fact sometimes the self-editing was so bad that there were times I just gave up, said “This sucks,” and then deleted the whole story and tried to start over.
There are some strategies to overcome this, though. The easiest is to simply accept the fact that a first draft isn’t ever perfect. If you don’t like the way something is coming out, just keep pushing through. As long as you’re happy enough with the basic plot of the story you’re developing, then there’s no reason to work on tweaking any individual sentences until it’s finished.
Another strategy, and the one that I use the most often, is when you’re stuck trying to make something come out right, just write a summary paragraph of that part instead. That way you can continue writing and get the most important parts finished first. After you’ve finished your first draft, going back and filling in the summary paragraphs will be much easier.
Regardless, don’t let editing get in the way of writing while you write. Save it for after you’ve finished. And then feel free to feel the pain that comes with editing and revising that first draft. But until then, your only goal with a new story should be getting to the point where you type “The End.”
How do you deal with the impulse to edit as you write? Does outlining help? Or something else? Leave a comment and let us know!