“You can’t edit a blank page.”
Jodi Picoult couldn’t have said it better. In most cases, we find it difficult to get anything down on paper because we keep editing our thoughts and ideas before we even sit down to write. (Yes, we are guilty of this.)
"Write first, edit later" is one of the writing strategies most writers find helpful, especially when trying to complete their first draft. The concept is to focus first on the quantity, then on quality. Write as many words as you can and leave editing for later.
Why should writers write first and edit later?
Science plays a part in this writing strategy. The act of writing and editing engage different regions of our brain. Writing uses our creative faculties, while editing utilizes our analytical side. What this means is that editing as we go interrupts our creative flow. When you write first, your creative juices flow freely, without interruptions caused by stopping and editing constantly.
If you keep going back to edit what you have written, you will lose your train of thought, lose your momentum, and find yourself caught in a never-ending editing and revising cycle. This will wear you out. (Just thinking about it is exhausting.) If this habit persists, it can quickly turn into procrastination and writer’s block, which will then lead to frustration. The last thing you want is to spend years writing a book that you never finish.
It would be a waste of time and effort trying to polish every single scene in your first draft before you have even finished writing. You will most likely end up revising your first few chapters after completing your first draft.
Editing as you go can also be challenging if you do not have a complete picture of the story. It will be much more efficient for you to save the editing part for later.
Writing first and editing later has many advantages. The truth is, as with any writing strategy, what works for many may not necessarily work for you. Write often and try different strategies until you figure out what suits you.
Do you write first, then edit later? Tell us about your writing process in the comments!
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