As all writers know, the worst thing you can do to break the “flow” is to start editing what you’ve just written. By the “flow” I’m talking about when you are in sync with your story, the words are flowing and it seems you could write forever. Eventually we do stop and then there is the temptation to reread and yes, even correct what we have just written. We do our best while creating to keep our sentence structure and grammatical errors to a minimum but yet, there are those times when flow overcomes structural thought and our best intentions become lengthy run-on sentences which sometimes lose even our own understanding when finally reviewing what we wrote during that late night moment of intuition; case in point. This unedited free flow I refer to as a “Raw Draft”. Editing is essential, regardless of how good we think we can write. No matter how many times you read your work and Raw Draft, there will always be something you miss; so it is almost a necessity to have another person read your work it even if they are editing or not.
So, the question beckons, “When do we edit?”
I’ve spoken about this to other authors in casual conversation and get a host of responses. In many instances it depends on how the author is published. Self-published authors probably have the widest range of response since they are usually footing the bill for the editing. It is the self-published folks whom I will be referring to the most in the following examples.
Some authors prefer to leave it all to the editorial staff stating, “That’s what I pay them for.” I have found these are the people with either deep pockets or those who can afford content and developmental editing (items I will talk to in a later blog article). These authors know that to break their flow will ruin their story and some even refer to themselves as storytellers rather than writers. I applaud these people and wish I too could “leave it all to the editors”, but alas, I was never blessed with a golden spoon nor have I been aggressive enough to acquire a Literary Agent or Publishing contract; something else I will speak to later. This of course is something those with publishing contracts only deal with when rewrites come back; otherwise, it is a moot point; again I’m speaking mainly to the self-published crowd.
Other writers find that once they have written a piece, they will put it away for a few days and then revisit it and edit it as they reread it. This is probably the most common self-editing practice I’ve noticed. Personally, I have to find myself “in a mood” that I know writing on my current novel is not going to work, so I go to a section that I’ve not yet edited and begin reading it for errors and content. Sometimes this puts me in the “mood” to write or triggers a thought that I might have overlooked and needs either clarification or additional coverage somewhere else in the story.
There are times that I purposely go back to something I’ve previously written and focus on reading it as if I were someone seeing the words for the first time. To me, this is probably the hardest thing to do as an author. I feel like I’ve read heard the story so many times, that it is practically impossible to see it with “fresh eyes”. To this latter extent, that’s why I’ve begun using “Beta-Readers”, yes, another article at a later date. Bottom line, Beta-readers are people who you trust with your unpublished story, who will read your rough draft (after your initial self-edit) for flow and understanding. They are not to be your grammatical editors, although they sometimes find a section of flow that is pure Raw Draft, and have to suggest changes according to the unedited piece simply to be able to understand what you’ve written.
Some writers are lucky enough to have friends who can help them edit, either grammatically, content or developmentally. Friends like this are invaluable and may work for free or at a much reduced editing fee. Cherish these people and treat them well, since they are far and few between.
Overall, as self-published authors, we have to find a happy medium where we can write unabated until the time comes we have to share our story either with a friend or one of our Beta-Readers. Then we must face the daunting task of editing or having our work edited for us. Like a trip to the dentist, nobody likes it, but good or bad, it has to be done and so it is.
What are some tricks you use to get around editing your work becoming a Flow-Stopper?