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Should you write first and edit later?

Go to a writing conference, read a book on writing, or just hang out enough on Twitter with other writers and at some point you’re going to get the following advice: “Write first, edit later.”

That’s great advice. Of course it is. But like pretty much all advice out there, it doesn’t work for everyone. Most notably to me, it doesn’t work for me.

Oh I don’t mean that I sit down to write Chapter 1 and then edit the heck out of it before I even think about moving to Chapter 2, but it does mean that quite often (and by that I mean in every WIP I’ve ever had), I end up sitting down to write Chapter 5 and then decide to go back to Chapter 2 because a decision I made way back in Chapter 2 means that the Chapter 5 that’s itching to explode from my overworked fingers simply won’t work. So I go back. I edit. Sometimes this means I don’t even get to Chapter 5 for a few days. Most of the time, it means an hour of editing and then I’ve fixed what needs to be fixed and I’m off writing again.

Someone told me once not to do that. She was insistent about it. Insistent to the point of barraging me about it. Finally I just had to stop and say “Look, I know this isn’t ideal. I know it sometimes costs me time. I know it isn’t always the most efficient way of spending my time. But this process works for me and whenever I try to avoid the editing until I’m done writing, I find myself frustrated and angry.”

There was one panel discussion I went to at GeekGirlCon last year on writing. That was the best panel ever. Why? Because two of the writers on that panel basically said the following: “Do what works for you. Sometimes that’s going to be starting from the beginning and writing linearly. Sometimes that’s going to be writing a scene from Chapter 10 and then jumping around. Sometimes that scene  you wrote from Chapter 10 won’t even make it into the book at the end, but if that’s what it takes to get you started then THAT’S WHAT YOU SHOULD DO.” Basically, all of their advice boiled down to “Do what works as long as you’re writing.”

So when my twitter update tags switch back and forth between #amediting and #amwriting, that’s why. Because sometimes you need to edit in the middle of writing.

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