Some authors sit down to write, and the words just flow out of them. They do a brain dump, quickly scan and make a few minor changes, and voila, they have a novel.
It’s not that easy for me. I work hard to be a good writer. My sentences don’t always come out in a logical arrangement, and they often come out with weak words or awkward phrasing. Like a certain percentage of writers out there, I’m unable to just leave it as a colossal mess and keep going. I repair and refine as I go to ensure that I don’t forget the nasty spots in my writing and miss correcting them when I do a better edit later on. That means editing as I write.
Many writing advice columns caution against this “bad habit.” I prefer to call it a “writing style.” Those “experts” probably spew out perfect sentences with clear flow every time. Well, at least coherent sentences in a reasonable order. I do not, and I shudder to think of trying to make sense of what comes off the tips of my fingers if left alone for too long! However, the warning is a sound one. A helpful practice for me could be a vice or a trap for writers who are smoother on their first draft. Editing as you write slows writing progress.
Whether you go full speed ahead when writing or fuss with your words, no one is perfect on the first try. NO ONE. The goal is to make the words enjoyable to read. Remember Lesson 1? “Reader Knows Best!”
Savvy authors read through their completed work several times and make changes as a continuous improvement process. This does not mean bigger words, it means better words and tighter phrasing. It means checking for inconsistencies of many types. It’s hard! And it’s worth every minute spent on self-editing. Full reviews should be performed at the chapter level as well as the full story, once it’s complete.
Suzan Lauder’s “Learning from My Mistakes” Lesson #2: Several full author edits are the preferred norm for ensuring quality writing.
Like most authors, I had to learn what to look for, and even after a few years of experience, I’m blind to many of my own habits. After my best self-editing, distracting situations may remain, so I utilize several techniques to catch them. Some find reading aloud helps them find errors. I find that lists are the best tool an author can have.
Suzan Lauder’s “Learning from My Mistakes” Lesson #3: Keep a checklist of your most common errors and use a “Find” function to clean them up during your later editing process.
In later posts, I’ll expand on the areas my checklists cover. What will yours cover?
Disclaimer: I’m not a writing expert. I’m just a writer who learned some stuff other writers might like to know instead of learning the hard way. My approach is pragmatic, and my posts are not professionally edited!