Editing your manuscript as you write is something that comes second nature to us writers. We are ever in the pursuit of the perfect turn of phrase. However, it can cause so much delay and doubt in yourself. There is a simple three step solution to stop yourself from mindlessly going over and over your words to get that draft finished.
At the beginning of the year I took a writing course and discussed with my teacher, author Claire Scobie, about whether it is productive to edit while writing. Her advice was that some people can't write any other way, but for the majority it is not feasible. She said the best way, is to just continue writing and edit once the first draft is done. I completely agree with this, and since I started taking her advice I have written 66K words this year.
Here is what I do to stop myself from editing. I will just say, that it is not a fool proof plan but it works for me and if you are persistent and dedicate yourself, then it will work.
Step One: Have The Right Mindset
For those of you who are regulars on my blog, you will note that a lot of my writing tips include having the correct mindset to begin with. I have lived by this mantra my entire life: if you believe in yourself, you can do anything. In this instance, before you even start writing you need to know in your heart that:
- You must not edit as you go because it will only hold you back;
- You can edit once you have completed the first draft; and
- You must know in your heart that it is the correct way to go about writing your WIP in order to ensure that it see's the light of day.
I know this in my heart and swear by it. I know what is best for my novel and that is not to edit until I have finished the first draft. It is because of that fact that I have gone further than I thought possible.
Step Two: Restrict Yourself To Two Paragraphs
In order to stop myself from changing or rewriting the entire chapter, I restrict myself to reading only the last two paragraphs I wrote before I start writing the next part. It is a very useful tool since it jogs your memory as to what you last wrote and is sufficient to indicate where you should begin. It also helps habitual editors, as it limits you to editing a word here or there in those two paragraphs only and that is okay. Small minor amendments are fine to do.
Step Three: Leave Yourself Notes (In MS Word)
Just because you can't edit the whole slab you just wrote doesn't mean you can't help yourself out.
I don't know how you use other writing programs, but assuming you keep it simple like me and use MS Word (click here to learn how to use MS Word to write a novel) leaving yourself notes is very simple. Use the comment tool in the review section of Word and highlight a line you just wrote which you want to change or the part which you need to foreshadow or the section which gave you an idea. Then in the comment box tell yourself what you need to know so that when you come up to that certain part in the editing phase you can tackle the problem straightaway.
This tool helps you take the edge off that gnawing sensation in the back of your mind which tells you to edit, edit, edit! By leaving yourself notes you will not forget what you need to know and you can rest easy knowing that those changes will be done at a later date.
I hope that this helps you stop editing as you go! Leave your comments below about whether you do this or will try it. If you have another trick share it with me and I'll give it ago as well. I hope you unleash yourself upon your story and write it all down!