Write First, Edit Later – Don’t Write & Edit at the Same Time

I have talked to a number of people about what they are calling Writer’s Block, but in talking about writer’s block, I believe that many are confusing writer’s block with editor’s block. In my opinion, one of the best ways to become a writer who is blocked is to insist upon editing as you write. One of my best pieces of advice for writing is to remember this:

There is a Time to Write and a Time to Edit – Don’t Try to Mix the Two.

Especially for the creative writer, I advocate freewriting as the first step in the writing process. Regardless of my writing project, however, I always begin with freewriting. When I decide what my topic will be, I simply begin to write. I don’t pause to worry about how to spell this or that, and I don’t worry about commas. During the very earliest part of writing something, I don’t even spend much time trying to put the gerund phrases where they belong, and I don’t try to avoid splitting infinitives. I simply write.

This will probably sound odd to many, but throughout my writing process, I often close my eyes and simply type. When I am trying to describe something, that works especially well. It also works when I am trying to hush my Self-Editor.

During the first stages of writing, simply write. Save the editing for later.

Just keep going like crazy and look back when it’s over. Otherwise you just get confused. – Cliff Burton-

Don’t get me wrong. There IS a time for editing. In my opinion, editing is not a pleasant experience, and that is one reason why I never mix my editing with my writing. If I edit as I write, I squelch the flow of what I am trying to say.

“While writing is like a joyful release, editing is a prison where the bars are my former intentions and the abusive warden my own neuroticism.” ― Tiffany Madison

When you write, you should allow your mind and your spirit to flow freely.

During the first step of my writing process, I allow myself to reach as far as I can reach and explore. If I begin editing too soon in my process, I prevent myself from soaring, and I slam my creative brakes too soon, thus starving my mind to death.

After I have finished writing, it is time to put on my work gloves and to begin editing. For me, editing is much more difficult than writing. In fact, I KNOW that I have Editor’s Block. I’ll do just about anything to keep from editing my work, but even the most creative of us CAN edit as well as we can write. The two processes are simply different.

“Put down everything that comes into your head and then you’re a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff’s worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.” – Colette

Once again, while we are writing, we should allow our words to dance freely and when we edit, we should scrutinize ourselves, but in my opinion, we should never try to mix the two.

Since I am also a writer, there is a third step to my picture book writing process: illustrating.

Because I am a visual person, I begin seeing my book’s illustrations in my mind, simultaneously as I write the text.  Actually, I see the illustrations before I write the text. As I said before, when I am writing, I close my eyes when I am typing my text. When I do that, I see the pictures of how my book will be illustrated BEFORE I write the text–and then, I simply write the words that describe what my mind is seeing.

I participate in several SCBWI events each year, and I especially like the opportunities that allow me to submit a manuscript for a critique. A couple of months ago, I received an editor’s critique, and she noted that she especially liked that my writing was visual. She said that as she read my manuscript, she could easily visualize several scenes in my book. This is true because  I write from the pictures of my mind.

But let’s talk about editing again–or let’s not talk about editing. Honestly, I don’t have much to say about editing. I’m not very good at editing. I loathe editing. Regardless, it is a necessary part of the writing process.

During the month of January, I am participating in Tara Lazar’s StoryStorm, and each day, I am listing books that I want to write. But I am not trying to write a new manuscript each day. My goal for 2021 is to write one manuscript each week–and then, to begin editing that manuscript during that same week. Editing goes on and on for me. I can’t promise that I’ll finish editing a different manuscript each week, but I do hope to have finished editing at least one manuscript each month during 2021.

Today is the first Thursday of the first month of January, and today, as soon as I finish this blog post, I’ll return to the odious task of editing one of my picture book manuscripts.

I need a hug.