When Should We Edit?
By Katy Kauffman
I’m not sure how to turn it off. My internal editor is always on. Is yours? We try to write, and bam! Our internal editor sounds the alarm. Is that a typo? Did you make another run-on sentence? Does that even make sense?
we want our writing to be so perfect in the first draft that we hesitate to
even start. Or we can’t release our writing into the world when we finally
think that maybe it’s done. Just maybe.
So here’s the question—should we wait to edit until the first draft is finished, or should we edit as we go along? I think that every professional writer would say, “Write your first draft to get your thoughts on paper. Don’t let editing hold you back. Then go back and edit.” I’ve said that too, and I am practicing it more than I used to. But it’s still hard.
A Combination That Works for Me
I’d like to share with you my writing process. See what you think of the steps below, and please know that my first drafts don’t always stay the way they pop out. But the process I describe helps me to write with music from the start. Instead of my usual first drafts sounding factual and distant, writing this way helps me to write more with music—it’s infused with emotion, insight, creativity, and the best takeaway for the reader.
The following process (for Bible-based writing) satisfies the demands of my internal editor and helps me make progress. Each paragraph is first written from a feeling of inspiration and enough knowledge or research of my topic, and then the editing kicks in.
Step 1: Write the first paragraph. This is usually the beginning of the story that I’m using for the lead-in.
Step 2: Read the first paragraph, tweak anything that’s obviously wrong, and write the second paragraph.
Step 3: Read the first two paragraphs, tweak obvious things, and write the third paragraph. I keep reading everything I’ve written so far, tweaking small things as I go, and continue writing until that article or section is done.
Step 4: Read the whole thing, and see if the flow of thought travels in a straight line and each paragraph is needed and written well. At this point, I take out sentences, rearrange their order in the paragraphs, or delete whole paragraphs.
Step 5: Read the whole thing again, adjust what’s necessary, and give a copy to my critique buddy for an objective opinion. At this point, I discover whether the first draft is a winner or if it needs a rewrite.
Our desire for excellent writing should never hold us back from trying. We can use that drive to supply excellent work to editors, agents, magazines, and our own blogs.
Writing is a balance of art and rules. We write from inspiration, crafting stories and messages that are painted on paper. For those works of art to be the most appealing, we follow the rules of the craft. So as you write, yes, editing is necessary. But it doesn’t have to hinder the beauty that will flow from your pen or computer.
What process do you use to write and edit? Share your thoughts in the comments below, so we can hear from you.
(Photo courtesy of Microsoft 365.)
Kauffman is an award-winning author, an editor of Refresh
Bible Study Magazine,
and a co-founder of Lighthouse Bible Studies. She loves connecting with writers and
working alongside them in compilations such as Feed Your Soul with the Word of God, Collection 1. Her monthly
writers’ newsletter, The Lighthouse Connection, shares writing tips, inspiration to
write, and news of submission opportunities.
addition to online magazines, Katy’s writing can be found at CBN.com,
thoughts-about-God.com, and three blogs on writing. She loves to spend time
with family and friends, take acrylic painting classes online, and do yard work
in the morning sun. Connect with her at http://lighthousebiblestudies.com, and on Facebook