When Is It Okay to Edit As You Write?


We’ve all been there. You sit down to write a few hundred words and end up spending your designated writing time making edits on parts of your story you’ve already written and set aside. Usually, in the writing world, this is discouraged. But not always, and not for everyone.

So when IS it okay to edit as you go?

If you’ve finished A LOT of writing projects before

You’ll hear, if you haven’t already, a lot of experts say you absolutely should not edit until you’ve finished writing. We’ve even given you tips on how to avoid it. This is relevant advice for two kinds of writers: beginners and procrastinators. It does not apply to more experienced writers the exact same way.

When you’re first starting out, the most important thing is to sit down and write. Finishing a story, regardless of the type, is hard. Once you get past that first hurdle, it gets a little easier each time you do it. The more you write, the more trained you are to be able to go back and edit as you write without having to worry so much about murdering your productivity.

If you just need to add a detail you’re afraid you’ll forget

Continuity is not the easiest thing to maintain when you’re working on a longer writing project, especially if you don’t write a story in chronological order. Every once in awhile you’ll realize, in the middle of writing, that the newest addition to your plot doesn’t quite match something small, but significant, that you’ve already written.

It’s okay to go back and do your best to make a quick revision, to make sure you remember it needs to be fixed. You can also mark or highlight it, without actually fixing it, or make some kind of note next to it to remind yourself to make the edit during revisions.

If you absolutely cannot move on until you do

If you’ve ever stopped in the middle of doing something important to send a quick text or answer an email—because you’re too distracted to finish what you’re doing before stopping to do something else—you know what it must be like to not be able to write anything new until you’ve gone back to fix something in a different part of the story that’s already been written.

Overall, the most important thing to do, as a writer, is write words. If going back to edit something you just remembered needs fixing is the only thing that’s going to clear your head and free up your brain for new ideas, just do it. But don’t abandon the task at hand to spend too much time on small, minute details you can fix in the revisions stage of the writing process. Later.

Either you love editing, or you don’t. A lot of times we end up spending more time on it than we mean to, instead of actually writing. It’s not always a writing “sin,” but always keep your end goal—finishing your story—in mind.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

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