Few writers can do this and still produce enough words to publish something. I’m not one of those, and I bet you aren’t, either.
When you edit as you write, you do these terrible things to yourself:
- You slow your rate of writing way down.
- You cut off your creativity.
- You disconnect yourself from the flow of your writing.
- You prevent yourself from having fun.
- You waste time fixing things that might not need it.
When you edit while you write, you don’t have a feel for the whole piece yet. You spend ten minutes choosing the perfect word for that one sentence; then, in the final edit, you end up cutting the entire paragraph.
Stop editing as you write. You’ll save time, and you’ll have more fun writing.
Tip: Come up with a mark that you can throw in your writing to remind yourself to edit this part. When you can’t find the word or reference or analogy, don’t stop in the middle of writing to find it. Put in the edit mark, and save it for editing time. (I use three slashes: ///. Easy to find using the search function; easy to spot when scanning my piece.)
If you read your finished work as soon as you’re through writing it, you’ll be in one of these unpleasant places:
- The Pit of Despair: Too soon! Back away! Your ideal — the way you wanted it to sound and flow, the story as it existed in your mind — is too close. When you read how you’ve written it, the gap between the real and the ideal slays you. You’re too close to the pre-creation vision to see the value in the real, created written work.
- The Cliffs of Insanity: Too close! Step down! You’re still on a writing high from that great idea, that perfect analogy, or the experience of writing in flow. You love all the words! So much! You’re too connected to the energy of the writing to see the (obvious) room for improvement.
Sometimes you need to wait a week. Sometimes a day. Sometimes an hour or two will do it.
I prefer to schedule separate times for writing and editing. (And I like to work in batches: so, one morning draft a bunch of posts. A couple of days later, edit them all.)
Tip: As a basic rule, the longer the piece, the more time you need between writing and editing. So if you want to write and publish a blog post in a day, you can. Give yourself an hour after writing, then edit, format, and hit publish.
The flip side of the edit-as-you-write writer is the impulsive writer. Is this you? You let the words pour out in a pent-up, ragey energy, and then — without any editing or proofing or even scanning — you push the thing out into the world.
Confession: I have been this writer many, many times.
Never for guest posts or freelance gigs or client work, but often for my own blog posts. You can scroll through my blog archives and find plenty of examples.
No, I haven’t gone back to fix them all. And I’m not planning to.
Yes, I edit everything before I publish it now, blog posts included. (Granted, it’s a quick-and-basic editing process, but it’s still an editing process.)
Sometimes you have something you need to say so badly that it pushes itself out of you in a rush. Sometimes you’ve gotten so comfortable with a particular topic or format that you can write without thinking.
That’s great, but editing and reviewing are important no matter how much flow you feel or how comfortable you are.
Give your best to the world; that doesn’t mean you sweat and struggle for perfection. It does mean you dress your baby in clothes before you show it to the world. Publishing without engaging in an editorial process is like taking your naked baby out for a walk. Somebody’s going to end up with shit on their hands.
(Hint: that somebody is most likely you.)
Use the tools at hand — here’s a good list — to make the editorial process better and smoother. Or create an editorial checklist to zip through the editing process without missing an important step.
Tip: Editing does not have to take hours. For short-form work, especially: set real standards, cover the important bases, and move on. It’s better to share something decent than to wait for something almost-perfect.