#WW: When Editing Isn’t Necessary
The title is – obviously – a little misleading. Editing is always necessary. As a full-time writer and an editor, I can promise this from both ends, but – as the title also promises – there is a specific time period during the writing process where I don’t suggest editing. If I had to be more accurate, I suggest not worrying about editing.
This time period generally covers the very first draft, especially if this is the first novel a writer is attempting. Why do I suggest avoiding editing at this stage? There are a number of reasons I tell writers to calm down and just write, but it mainly consists of the fact that editing can become extremely overwhelming. It demands a lot of focus and time – and it’s normally a whole lot less fun for a writer than writing – so I always suggest getting that first draft down before worrying about pesky commas and subject-verb agreement. For now, concentrate on world building, symbolism, and overall character development. Get some eyes on your work. Try to connect with a couple beta readers. Join a writer’s group, and listen to suggestions. If you get stuck, ask for more help, but getting that first draft down is all that matters in the beginning. Once that is down, edit for yourself, but always – always – hire an outside editor (preferably – and by “preferably” I generally mean “always” – an editor who is not related to you). I would even go so far as to suggest hiring an editor that is not in your writer’s group, not one of your beta readers, and not associated with your first draft. Why? Because I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard, “I’ve had so-and-so and this-many-people-read-it. They didn’t see any mistakes, so I think it’s fine.” But when I open the file, it’s easy to see how much help they truly need.
I want to take this heartfelt moment to clarify how I went through this myself. As a novelist, I made all the mistakes any writer could make. In fact, if you read my recent post, The Reader’s Reaction, then you probably guessed the editing in the original November Snow was quite disastrous…and it was. Granted, the Indie market was much different back in 2007, and I was a child, but I will never forget that lesson. There are no excuses for disastrous editing. So, I am no exception to any of these mistakes. I had friends read it and tell me it was fine. I even had adults read it and tell me it was fine. It wasn’t fine. They were sparing my feelings, but in the end, the disaster had to happen, and it happened very publically because people wanted to protect my feelings, and honestly, someone else protecting your feelings is the easy part to overcome. The harder part is overcoming ourselves.
As writers, we have to stop protecting our own feelings. We have to be able to step back from our work, constantly and openly. We have to be okay when we work with an editor and see red marks all over the Review format in Word. We have to be able to breathe when we receive a bad review or even a review that is factually incorrect. We have to be able to laugh at ourselves when we even know we made a mistake, our editor made a mistake, and now, it’s out there. Mistakes will always slip through, and we have to find a way to accept our human self as the same self that wrote a novel. The author self is not separate, and our emotions won’t be either, but knowing when to worry, when to laugh, when to celebrate, when to write, and when to edit is unique for every author, and it is also important for every author to know about themselves.
Everyone will write differently. Everyone will edit differently. My advice isn’t set in stone or carved into a cave or propped up anywhere aside from on this little computer screen. It’s just my advice. It works for me, it worked for me, and it continues to work for me, but it took me years to figure out what “writer me” needed and wanted to move forward in the most productive way possible, and I still learn every day. I only think sharing what we learn with others is what can help us all in the end.
Who knows? Maybe what I do will work for you or maybe something you do will work for me. It never hurts to try something new, and I’m always open to suggestions. That’s the writer and the editor in me. I listen. I learn. I continue moving forward, and I share my lessons along the way.
I also want to give a HUGE shoutout to Jonas Lee, author of A Time to Reap, for writing this wonderful review of my Services: “I had been following Shannon since I started blogging/looking into Indie publishing. When I saw she offered services, I jumped on the chance to work with her expertise and connections to pump up some reviews for my first book. Shannon was professional, communicated quickly and was so great to work with. The reviews keep rolling in and my fan base is slowly growing once again. I was looking forward to an easy, effective experience and Shannon exceeded my own goals. What I didn’t expect to find was a fantastic colleague and a new friend. Even though the last part was free, it was the most rewarding.”
I am very grateful for the authors and writers I work with every day. Their work is both inspiring and exciting, and I, too, feel like I am gaining more friends to laugh, write, and speak with.
15 thoughts on “#WW: When Editing Isn’t Necessary”
This is the best advice I give people as well. Write the draft, then edit the hell out of it. Don’t do it at the same time.
I’m entering the vast world of self publishing very soon, and I’m trying to learn all I can about the business. Do you have advice on where to begin?
Definitely! I would suggest joining Indie Author Group on Facebook. They have fantastic information about self-publishing as well as all types of publishing (and more). They also don’t allow ads at all, so it’s strictly information, and they also provide informative files through the group.
Hope that helps!
There is a lot of good advice here. I edit quite a bit as I go along because a little editing now can save a lot of editing later.
I’m glad you enjoyed it! I definitely think editing can go either way.
I’ve come to find the word ‘fine’ very suspicious thanks to getting friends and family to read my books. The first person who reads my stuff is my wife who I ask to check continuity and major errors. I tend to get ‘fine’ from her or she finds one little tic that she won’t give up on. For example, she’s still angry that I chopped off her favorite character’s hair a few books ago. Anyway, it does get difficult to find someone outside of the circle to do editing at the beginning. Most indie authors don’t have the money for even a cheap editor, which was my situation. I’m still trying to find time to fix up Books 2-4, so it’s something that can linger. On the plus side of the indie world, we have the luxury of being able to upload a new, edited version quickly when people point out mistakes. It isn’t the smoothest or best system, but it does help a new author who will learn to be more careful in the future.
That is very true! It’s nice how easy it can be to change an error once pointed out. I didn’t have that with November Snow. lol I still cringe when I think about it, but I hope that story still gets it day back in the market since it hasn’t been in it since 2007. But that word “fine” – I completely agree with you. Fine means it isn’t fine. This is a fact. It should be in the dictionary that way.
A lot of authors release older stuff after they find more success with newer stuff. Though it’s odd coming from me who has been banging away at the same series since 1998.
I fully support your idea to change the definition of fine. It’s become its own antonym.
Kind of like “literally” – also its own antonym. 😛
I agree, the challenge of the first draft is simply to finish. How can you even know what the edits are aiming for, if you don’t finish a draft?
I agree! I have found that out by finishing too many novels and having a character surprise me with a reveal at the end that changed a lot I had to go back and fix. If I had spent a bunch of my time editing before that moment, it would’ve been lost writing time.
I think the best advice really is just to get the words down in the first draft. Just type and type and worry about everything after you have it all down 😀 Great post!
A little off topic, but I’m trying to get hooked up with a writer’s group and have no idea how to go about that. Do you have any suggestions?
I know there are a few on Facebook, depending on the genre. You could also ask your local library or college. But you could use Wattpad.com for feedback or finding feedback. I hope that helps!
Thanks, I will check those out.