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Why slower writers edit better

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I’m approaching the end of a draft at the moment, and I’ve noticed that the amount I’m writing per session is picking up. Even my edits (which is a task I don’t really like) are coming faster and faster. However, then I look back at what I’ve written and realise that it’s not as high a quality as some of the early writing in the same book. I realised that editing is the most important time when writers should slow down if they want to edit better. If they don’t, they risk missing things and writing a load of rubbish.

We should all be aware that when editing, speed isn’t totally positive. We should develop a sense of detail as well. If we don’t, and if we give in to the need for speed, we might not turn out a quality product.

First draft writing is a race

When writing a firstdraft, quick writing is a great habit for a writer to develop. Fast writers area bunch who can turn out stories by the bucketload and power throughregardless. When we’re creating that first draft (or writing for NanoWriMo),speed is a great skill to have. It lets us get to a completed piece of workwith the smallest amount of time spent.

I always encourage writers on their first draft to get as much down as quickly as possible. Only then can they identify the holes in the story, or really start to look at the quality of the prose.

It’s a good idea, then to treat the first draft as a race. We all need to get over that finish line as quickly as we can, get the bare bones of the structure in place, get the character arcs laid out. Only then can we start to refine it – and that’s when writers should slow down a bit.

Editing is precision

Editing is hard work. I find it one of the hardest parts of writing, and it’s one that I’m yet to find the pateience to enjoy fully. I do know, however, that editing is essential to putting together a great story. Despite the odd story about people writing an entire, perfect novel or play in a weekend, most of us need to take the time to check what was written in the earlier sprint actually makes sense.

This is when we should slow down. Take the time to read every word, every sentence (out loud if possible). By doing that, writers will find a lot more of the mistakes that the sprinters usually miss. I’ve made a point of reading every chapter I’m editing twice before it’s ready for my latest draft.

Slowing down allows us to find the little things that can throw a reader’s attention out. Whether it’s the subtle name change (Catherine/Katherine, for example) or the object referred to in chapter 11 and never spoken about again, despite it’s apparent importance, sprinters can miss these easily. For new writers especially it’s important to spot these things as early in the process as possible – especially if you’re submitting to a competition or an agent. It’s a smaller step, but one that will let you edit better.

So try it – slow down!

The images on this page are from Unsplash.

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