Edit while you write or wait till the end?
Hemingway said ‘The first draft of anything is rubbish.’ Well he didn’t say rubbish he said something else.
But what he actually said is rude, its 9am, and the woman sitting on the table opposite me in Costa won’t appreciate foul language.
Fighting the urge to edit while you are still writing is difficult. Sometimes its better to write something out in its entirety than tweak as you go along. Believe me I know.
You probably wouldn’t believe it reading this blog, but I like to make my work is as polished as possible, before moving onto the next project. But sometimes this stance will actually inhibit your work flow.
Nowadays I try not rewrite or delete sentences or entire paragraphs on the first draft. Even though I’m itching to tamper with what has been written.
If I must edit whilst writing, I try sticking to correcting typos alongside devising new ways to avoid repetition.
Sometimes the maelstrom of ideas swirling around in your head makes can enforce the need to edit before finishing.
Here’s some tips I have found below from talking to a lot of different writers.
Some in particular have an innate grasp of editing.
1. Don’t burn out.
This was mentioned to me recently by @Amyhparr.
Take a break when you are done writing. Much can be said about setting your work aside for a day or even three before you start revising it. Of course, this means budgeting extra time into your schedule. Fresh eyes can identify inconsistencies or holes, along with sentences that jar and cause problems with flow or style.
2. Play with it.
Re format the work. We all know in different forms your writing takes on a new life. Print off a blog post, or upload it to the preview area of your platform.
A tip is converting a manuscript into a PDF and reading it on a tablet or e- reader. Doing so may help you see problems you missed when it was in its original format.
Edit Structure and content first.Why polish when you need to carry out maintenance on the manuscript first?
Take a holistic view and make sure the story and premise is consistent before you tweak that gem of a sentence.
Concentrate on the bigger picture to ensure a greater sense of where to add or remove details. Once you know a key element is not misssing, then you can be confident in line editing.
4. Snip Snip. Chop Chop.
Realize you have to trim things down or tighten them up as @donttelltales says.
This fellow is the King of Flash Fiction. Give him 300 words and he will take you on a literary roller coaster. But the underlying message from him is that you overwrite then trim it down.
Take out unnecessary words like And, The, They… you get the idea right ?
Many writers say too much;
So trim, avoid repetition and unnecessary phrases such as,
“In my opinion.”
Also, cut needless modifiers. For instance, “David spoke low and softly” can be changed to, “David whispered.”
5. Spell check is not infallible. Don’t rely too heavily on it.
By all means run your work through spell check, but don’t expect it will catch everything. Even the latest software can’t tell the difference between homophones—words that are spelled differently but sound the same, such as which and witch.
Be vigilant for words describing effect vs affect and there, their,and they’re (it’s not hard dummy). Also realize that Word comes up with weird suggestions for its and it’s.
@nickb1963 mentioned this to me. I felt a bit dumb for not noticing it earlier.
6. Slow down.
Take it easy. Read aloud slowly.Even professional editors and proofreaders make mistakes. A handy tip from @EvoBoozySaddler and is to read a draft out loud and slowly.
Our brains skip ahead and work faster than our eyes, so we skim over words on a page. Reading out slowly and deliberately makes us process each word, so spotting mistakes is easier.
So there you have it, a few tips on editing. I hope it helps.
Neil Sehmbhy is a budding young author who lives in a town that calls itself a city. Author of the forthcoming novels ; The Corporation and The Sunder, he loves reading, writing and eating cheese toasties. Follow him @NeilSehmbhy.