Writing is one thing … editing is another

SUMMARY: Ed Wilson talks about separating writing and editing.

Last month held the #NaNoWriMo event (The National Novel Writing Month). The idea is to write a 50,000 rough draft of a novel in a month, that translates to around 1,600 or so words a day. To me that is not all that big of a deal. I routinely write more than that in a regular day. I also write more than that at night. Especially when the moon is out, and the sky is clear. I enjoying heading out on the porch and writing.

The key, for me anyway, is to separate writing from editing. If I type a sentence, and pause to edit it, then I do two things:

1. I ruin my momentum

2. I waste time editing something that I might have deleted in the first place.

It really is that simple. Writing and editing are two different processes. When I am writing, I get into a flow. I begin to compose situations, descriptions, I think of details that I want to include, and I begin to eliminate things that take away from all of that. It really does not matter if I am writing on a technical book project, or if I am working on my mystery novel … I just sort of visualize a conversation that begins to take place, I explain things to an imaginary audience. In fiction, I am telling a story to a hypothetical reader.

In both cases, I know where the story goes. With a non-fiction work, I plan my book projects out extremely carefully. The outline goes down several layers – nearly to the point of lead in sentences for each section in a chapter. In my fiction writing, the outline covers the main idea, the major flow, but not all of the details. I may indicate where I think plot twists occur, but once I have the plan, I do not go back to it too often.

For a day of writing to be productive, I must know where I will pick up in the morning. I deliberately, leave off at a point where I know where things go. In this way, I am sort of on autopilot for the first point. Hopefully, like priming a pump, the words begin to flow before the prime gives out. Hemingway said essentially the same thing, he said that he never writes himself out because otherwise it takes too long to get back into the flow of things the next day.

This is actually one of the good things of the #NaNoWriMo it helps one to set goals, and to see how steadily meeting goals, helps one to achieve the desired results.

Remember, a writer writes. A writer also edits, but don’t do both activities at the same time.

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