Do you make edits to your work in progress as you write, or do you wait until the end to edit? (See Developmental Editing to clarify the editing I'm speaking of.)
After reading this post by Sean D’Souza, I realized I had to clarify my thinking on the subject of when to edit.
To give a brief overview, the brain learns in certain ways (read his article) and we can maximize how fast we learn if we understand this process and how to push it.
I have always been convinced that I make better decisions when I ‘sleep on it,’ whether I am debating on making a purchase, agreeing to do a thing (taking on a new project) or whether to change an aspect of my novel in progress.
As a writer I haven’t yet reached a point where I know and understand every aspect of the writer’s craft (and from the many books I’ve read, I’d say there are many, many more writers in the same situation than would like to admit it).
So after I go to my critique group to share what I thought was a marvelous piece of work, only to come away finding out it is full of holes (I have a good group), I have to decide on the best way to handle that new information.
One way is to set the criticisms aside for a time when I can deal with it all at once at the end (which would seem to be the advice you hear most often; i.e., ‘don’t edit until you have the whole draft down.’). But after reading the above mentioned article, I’m reviewing this directive in a new light. Maybe waiting until you reach the end of your first draft to edit is not the best advice.
I never like absolutes because sooner or later you will find the holes in the theory and have to eat your own words (or edit them out as the case may be). Maybe there is a hole in the theory of waiting until the end before editing. I myself have said it (to encourage those who want to edit the first scene ad nauseam until it is ‘right.’), yet that is not what I actually do in practice.
What appears to work best for me is to come back from critique group and sleep on it. Then, the next day make the changes I feel appropriate while they are still fresh in my mind.
In that way I learn what I did wrong, correct it and am less likely to repeat the same mistake again (or at least not too many times again) since I will be more apt to catch myself making that error in the future.
Another writer in my group puts all critique comments away, waiting until she finishes her first draft, (which is going slowly because of her life—funny how life has a way of interrupting our writing). But if this theory is right, that might not be a good solution.
If we learn best by accretion then it might be better to make those corrections right away, as soon as we see them so we are less likely to repeat them over and over, leaving room to learn other aspects of writing we haven't yet grasped.
'Skill is the systematic reduction of errors,' d’Souza points out. So maybe sleeping on it and fixing those errors right away could increase your learning curve and your work.
Do you make decisions best by sleeping on it or does something else work better for you?
I’d like to know your opinion, since I am in the middle of poking holes in this theory of waiting on editing until after the first draft is complete vs. editing immediately when you are shown there's a problem.