One of the first things I ask other writers whenever I speak at a lecture is “do you edit your work?” Many say “yes” while everyone else usually nods in agreement. Of course I edit my work. After all, I’m not completely crazy.
But then I ask “when does your editing start?” I am usually met with blank stares at first. So I help them out. “Do you start editing after your first page?” A few hands go up. “How about after you are done with your first chapter?” More hands go up.
I smile at them and then say, “don’t do that.” Then I am met with the writers looking at each other not sure what to say.
Let me explain. I have learned that if you spend your time editing your novel, article or short story one section at a time, it will take you much longer then it would have if you didn’t edit at all. And most writers give up the idea of writing a novel because they can’t get past chapter two.
Your writing should always be written without any editing while you are composing the original idea. Don’t worry about the perfect wording, the proper use of the sentence, the spelling, or even the details. It is more important to just write what you intended to write, all the way through, even a full novel.
If you start editing the first chapter before you start on the second one, you are going to be editing it over and over again until it is so polished, you could eat off of it. Then when you start your second chapter, you may change your mind about something you mentioned in the first chapter. But wait! You already spent so much time polishing it. It’s perfect and you don’t want to mess it up. You worked too hard on it.
But the change is too important, so you go ahead and make the changes. Now you start editing the first chapter all over again to get it just right. Then you start editing the second chapter until it is gleaming ever so brightly. You are proud of how your novel, article, or short story is coming along. Now that you are on the third chapter, you find something else you need to add, change, or delete from the first and/or second chapter. Oh man, those are already just the way you wanted it. And so the cycle continues.
If you don’t edit your work, but just keep writing until your whole project is completed. This is called your rough draft. After you have written your complete project, only then can you add, change or delete to your heart’s content. But first, you should go back and fix all of those CRAB sections you left when you had writers block.
Once you have completed your CRAB fest, you can start polishing your work all the way through. Then start at the beginning and go through your work again. You may have to comb through your entire novel, article or short story many times before you are ready for it to go to an editor. Yes, that’s right. Even if you are the best editor there is, you are too close to your own work and it is always better to get another editor to find the mistakes you missed. I don’t know what I would do without my editor.