Lesson #96: Writing New Stories… To Edit, or Not to Edit?


You’re writing a new story. You’ve got the first ten pages written. You’d like to make this first draft as good as it can be…

Maybe you’re on a deadline.

The big question stares you in the face:

Do you edit now – or edit later?

In a nutshell:

There’s no easy answer for this question.

Everyone has a different process of both writing and editing. I’m assuming that you’ve heard a lot about aaaaaaaall of the different hints, tidbits, and theories about writing techniques. Here are a few of the common writing/editing methods:

  1. Research-plot-write-edit. Some people like to research topics and come up with a plot from what they discover. They then write the story. After completing the first draft, they go back and edit.
  2. Plot-research-write-edit. Some people come up with a plot first, then go and research what they want to include in the writing process. They then write the story and finish with an edit or two (or three… or ten).
  3. Plot-write-research-edit. Some people come up with the plot first, then go ahead and write freely. Then they’ll go back and research things and add those in. Then they’ll edit.
  4. Plot-write-edit-write-research-write-edit. Some people come up with a plot and start writing, then edit some things, then write some more, then edit some more, etc.
  5. Write-edit-write-edit-write-edit-plot-research. Some people don’t plot or plan at all during their process, until they get nearer to the final draft. They will write and then edit, write and then edit, write and then edit, and continue until they have all of the details they want. Then they’ll figure out the plot and tweak that into what they have.
  6. Write-plot-edit. Some people like to free write a first draft, then piece what they have together into a strong plot, then go back and edit.
  7. Write-trash-write-trash-write. And some people write until they find what they like, writing something and then throwing it away, then writing something new and throwing that one away, until they come to something they love.

Some processes are complex; some are simple.

The question is: what works for you? Are you a “Plotter” or a “Pantser”? (In other words, do you like to plot out your story first, or simply sit down and write what comes to mind?) Do you like editing as you go, or do you prefer editing once you finish the first draft? Or, to get down further into the nitty gritty process, do you like to edit as you write each sentence, or wait to edit until you finish a chapter?

Again, everyone’s process is different. What should you do? Well, you should first pinpoint which process(es) you like to utilize. I personally am a plot-write-edit-write-edit-write-edit kind of girl. I usually plot out the gist of my story and the character arcs; then I write a chapter; then I go back and edit that chapter. However, I also like to free write for many chapters before going back to edit anything. I like to write large chunks at a time, then go back and tear into them with my editor’s pen. I hardly ever write a single paragraph and immediately go back to edit that paragraph, mainly because it pulls me out of the “flow” of my thoughts. I write fast – thus, I write a lot at one time.

Whatever YOUR writing process is, it’s important to edit (ALWAYS EDIT!) at some point in your process; you’re probably like, “well, duh.” Wait! There’s a point in this statement.

I encourage you to: remember that your story WILL be edited at some point.

So: don’t STRESS while you’re writing.

This is an essential piece of advice! Write it down. Write it with permanent marker on your computer keyboard. Get it tattooed on your fingers. Engrave it on your heart. (Okay, maybe not. But the point remains: don’t forget this!)

Whether or not you edit a lot or a little (or none) during your initial draft, always remember to let it go and let it flow. Don’t let yourself become so much of a perfectionist that you give yourself writer’s block because you can’t come up with that “perfect” first line or “spot-on” description.

Furthermore, note that sometimes it might be beneficial to be brave and stretch yourself out of your comfort zone. Do you ALWAYS plot out your whole story first? Maybe try free-writing. Do you ALWAYS write first and edit later? Maybe try editing scene by scene or paragraph by paragraph. Sometimes, to keep your creative juices flowing, you may need to mix things up and try something new.

The moral of my discourse: find what works for you and don’t stress over when/how much you edit!

As a side note:

It’s always a good choice to have a professional edit done on your manuscript before submitting it to a publisher. Here at The Write Nook, we offer professional edits for a great price (if I do say so myself!) Contact us at thewritenook@gmail.com for prices and details!

As another side note: I’d also encourage you to “never” submit a portion of a partial draft. In other words, 90% of the time, it’s not wise to have a professional edit done on a manuscript you haven’t finished yet. Especially if you’re unsure of the middle or ending. Of course, there are exceptions. For one thing, you may not need to have the “whole” manuscript completed for an edit on the first thirty pages; also, sometimes missing a few chapters shouldn’t be a huge problem for a full professional edit. But, overall: I advise you to finish your first draft (the beginning, middle, and end of your story) before paying to have a professional editor look at your manuscript.

Hope this helps. Remember:

DON’T STRESS! :) I’m guessing you didn’t start writing because you “hate” writing… So: don’t forget the joy and love you have for writing.

With pen to paper,

Kayla Woodhouse

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