Being a Better Writer: Editing on the In-progress

Hello readers! I hope you’re all having a good Monday so far, and are looking forward to another installment of Being a Better Writer!

However, I do have some news for you: Today’s post is going to be a little short. Why? Well, I’m still sick. Not 100% out from under the thumb of this cold yet. So today’s post, as a hedge against my likely somewhat compromised mental state (and fatigue) is going to be a bit shorter.

But that’s okay because I have the perfect request topic that I’ve held onto for a while because I wasn’t positive that the answer would be that long. Short, to the point answer, compromised brain … like I said, perfect. So let’s just dive right in!

So, what question prompted this? As I said above, it was a reader request, and in this case the reader was inquiring after whether or not it was a good idea to go back and do major rewrite edits while still in progress on a story. As in, before the story has reached its end. And well, this one’s short but kind of tricky. The best answer I can give is “Yes and no.” And for that to make sense, you’ll need to hit the jump.

Okay, so this one is a bit of a tricky answer that mostly comes down to you personally. As in how you write and process your stories. Because some writers can do this no problem. Realization that they need to rewrite an earlier chapter? Back they go to rewrite it, hopping back to the present moment as soon as that’s done. Not a care in the world. In and out.

But other writers? They make an edit, and then another edit, and then another edit, and before they know it, they’re trapped in the dreaded death spiral and that story is never getting finished. Others, meanwhile, will start to confuse themselves with whether or not they’ve made the edits, and find themselves writing from that point on a story that references two separate instances of a chapter, kind of like someone messed with time. And others will find that once they’ve moved “back” they can’t get their mind back to the present without retracing and rewriting all their steps so far.

Oof. Yes, I’ve encountered every one of those types of writers in my time writing. but before I go much further, I want to make something abundantly clear: If you’re not one of those folks that can hop back on a whim and rewrite a section … Don’t worry. Each “way” of writing has its own strengths and weaknesses that you’ll feel comfortable with (or not) and that’s why you’ll eventually settle on one (or a few, depending on you). It’s not a bad thing that you realize you want to rewrite something, and rather than change it in the moment leave it for editing.

Why? Because by the time you get to editing, you might look at something and realize that it doesn’t need to be changed at all. Or that it’s better to change another part of the story instead and leave what you originally wanted to edit intact.

Again, this is why this is a “yes and no” sort of answer. Because it’s entirely subjective. Some authors are perfectly willing to go back, rewrite a chapter, move a few more ahead, rewrite another … and can do this without missing a beat. Others will write out the whole story and then go back and change what they wanted to change. Yet other still will write it all out, then change other things. There are even authors that write everything out of sequential order anyway, so it’s not so much “going back” as it is boarding their time machine of choice to revisit that portion of the story.

For some writers? This works. But for others … it doesn’t.

So then, what do I advise to you? Find out what kind of writer you are. And that means giving it a shot. See what happens if you stop, go back, and make a change. Does it throw you off? Do you end up rewriting the whole book? Do you end up caught in a death spiral? Or are you in and out and back to the last chapter you wrote without fear?

Experiment. See what works for you and what you end up thinking of your own efforts. Does one approach serve you better than another? Why? And what will that mean for you going forward?

And really, that’s all I have to say on this topic. Take notes, experiment, and see what works for you.

Good luck. Now get writing.

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