Friday, March 30, 2012

Crappy First Drafts vs. Editing As You Go

I always love to hear how writers edit their work, whether they’ve taken a two-week break after completing their first draft so they can rest their eyes, or if they dive right in after finishing. Some writers never go back and finish editing, because they’ve realized the manuscript isn’t really great; it was just a story they needed to release from their mind. So, I decided to write a blog post about crappy first drafts—you know, the ones overloaded with grammar and punctuation problems?—as opposed to first drafts which have been edited as they were written. What are the benefits of editing later, or editing as you go?
Here’s what I’ve learned so far about first drafts: 
  1. You can never, ever write a perfect first draft. I don’t care if you’re Stephen King or J.K. Rowling. Any novel you write, no matter how perfect it may seem the first time around, is not, in fact, perfect. Nothing ever is. So, don’t be discouraged if it’s crap; all first drafts are.
  2. It may seem like you’re saving time by hammering out your first draft, but how many mistakes did you make along the way? How long will it take to correct those mistakes when you dive in for round two?
  3. If you edit as you go, you’ll still have to edit once you’re finished. So, it’s up to you how much you want to edit later.
  4. Your beta readers/editors will always find mistakes or general problems with your manuscript (e.g. – a character says or does something that is completely out of character, pacing is too slow, pacing is too fast, climax needs to be more . . . climatic, there needs to be more action, more romance, grammar, punctuation, etc.). The list goes on and on.
  5. There’s no greater rush than when you write the last word of the last sentence of the last chapter of your novel. :)
In my experience, I’ve written crappy first drafts first and edited later, and I’ve edited my first drafts as I wrote. Personally, I prefer the latter of the two. I feel like I save my beta readers time, especially with line edits, so they can focus more on the story and the overall problems rather than the minor grammar/punctuation errors, which can slow them down. But I’m interested to hear how you guys operate. Do you pump out the books rather quickly and edit later, or do you take your time, editing as you go along? Let me hear your thoughts. :)


  1. I prefer to take my time and edit as I go - I find it's easier to see the mistakes. I will probably go over it after I have finished too, but for now it's edit as I go for me.

    1. Me too, unless it's NaNoWriMo or something like that. ;)

  2. I edit as I go for a number of reasons, but mostly because I almost always read through the last section I wrote before I start writing again and change things as I notice them.

    If I was writing something more action-driven, pumping the book out might work better for me to keep the excitement level high, but for my current novel I'm constantly thinking about word choice and style and flow, so it's a completely different process!

    1. I definitely agree about the action. Sometimes you just have to forget editing and go with the flow. But it's sooo much easier to edit as you go along. :)

  3. I like to edit as I go now. Sure, I still miss a bunch but that's why I pass it off to be edited before the final copies are set to release.
    ...And speaking as one of your beta readers, I can tell you edit as you go cause there's not a whole lot to pick up on. Makes focusing on the story a whole lot easier. So thanks!

    1. I think we all miss a bunch of stuff. :/ But thanks! :D Glad I can make it easier for ya. ;)


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