A lot of people start out on the journey of writing a book and never finish and I’ve talked about the things I often do to help myself finish the things I start, but today I want to talk about the next stage.
Often when the very first story is finished it’s not that great, and it can be very tempting to sit down and edit right away, wanting to get it ready to show others. I’ve found it’s better to leave the book for a few weeks. When I come back to it I find it easier to spot the mistakes because my brain has had time to forget what I meant to say. Also, during that time of reading and writing in between I’ve already grown a little more as a writer (at least I’d hope I had).
It can also be tempting to just keep editing. And then edit again, based on the rules we’ve learnt since the beginning and the suggestions of those first few readers. While this does help a little, it can actually kill that precious voice and style that is unique to each of us.
When the pen first hits paper (or our fingers press those keys) we are in our creative mode. The words are flowing from the more subconscious part of our brains. The part that more intuitively knows what it’s doing. It’s been reading books and words since we were kids so it’s picked up on more than the conscious part of the brain has. It will already have an idea of who it is and how it should sound too. But near the beginning of our careers our critical side, the part a lot of people edit in, is not so clever. It’s read those books too but it used to just enjoy them. It never looked at the way other authors did things. A blog I read recently even goes so far as to suggest we shouldn’t really edit in our critical mode because it will never be as good as our more intuitive creative side.
Everyone who writes is different, there’s no one way to do things and I think this includes how we edit. I have found, as I’ve written more books the need to edit has lessened. I’ve got better from reading books and finding tips all over the internet in a more intuitive manner so my first drafts are getting closer and closer to perfect (If you don’t include typos and other grammar issues I’m still struggling with) and my editing is getting less and less.
If I’d spent all that time editing up the first few of my stories (which really aren’t as good as the work I’m doing now) I don’t think I’d be as good as I am now.
In short what I’m trying to say is, read the how-to’s and learn what you can from reading other books, but when it comes to your own work, do as little editing as you can get away with; at the very least typos, grammar and structure editing. Then spend the rest of the time writing something new, with what you’ve learnt from the previous attempts. You’ll get better, faster that way.