When Should We Start Editing?
by Katy Kauffman
- Those praise music lyrics are missing punctuation. (Does that drive you crazy, too?)
- I’m writing compound sentences in my e-mails without commas. (And feeling guilty about it.)
- I can’t send this text until it’s perfect. (Half the time I’m missing something.)
So here’s the question—should we wait to edit until the first draft is done, or should we edit as we go along? I think that every professional writer would say, “Write your first draft to get your thoughts on paper. Don’t let editing hold you back. Then go back and edit.” I’ve said that, too. But I rarely practice it.
A Combination That Works for Me
I’d like to share with you my writing process. See what you think of the steps below, and please know that my first drafts hardly ever stay the way that they pop out. But the following process (for devotional and Bible study writing) satisfies the demands of my internal editor and helps me to make progress. Each paragraph is first written from a feeling of inspiration and enough knowledge or research of my topic, and then the editing kicks in.
5 Step Editing Process
- Step 1: Write the first paragraph. This is usually the beginning of the story that I’m using for the lead-in.
- Step 2: Read the first paragraph, tweak anything that’s obviously wrong, and write the second paragraph.
- Step 3: Read the first two paragraphs, tweak obvious things, and write the third paragraph. I keep reading everything I’ve written so far, tweaking small things as I go, and continue writing until that article or section is done.
- Step 4: Read the whole thing, and see if the flow of thought travels in a straight line and each paragraph is needed and written well. At this point, I take out sentences, rearrange their order in the paragraphs, or delete whole paragraphs.
- Step 5: Read the whole thing again, adjust what’s necessary, and give a copy to my critique buddy for an objective opinion. At this point, I discover whether the first draft is a winner or if it needs a rewrite.
Our desire for excellent writing should never hold us back from trying. We can use that drive to supply excellent work to editors, agents, magazines, and our own blogs. Writing is a balance of art and rules. We write from inspiration, crafting stories and messages that are painted on paper. For those works of art to be the most appealing, we follow the rules of the craft. So as you write, yes, editing is necessary. But it doesn’t have to hinder the beauty that will flow from your pen or computer.
What process do you use to write and edit? Share your thoughts below, and join the conversation!
Katy Kauffman is an award-winning author, an editor of , and a co-founder of . She loves connecting with writers and working alongside them in compilations, such as Feed Your Soul with the Word of God, Collection 1 which is a 2020 Selah Awards finalist. She recently started , a monthly writers’ newsletter including writing tips, inspiration to write, and news of submission opportunities.
In addition to online magazines, Katy’s writing can be found at CBN.com, thoughts-about-God.com, and three blogs on writing. She loves to spend time with family and friends, take acrylic painting classes online, and do yard work in the morning sun. Connect with her at her blog, , and on and .