I love reading all the different advice on blog posts and Twitter and from real life writer friends, but sometimes it can get confusing. Many authors I follow swear by turning off their inner editor and writing an entire first draft sprint style, a la National Novel Writing Month. I read this advice so many times that I decided to try it for myself. I got a first draft of that novel completed, but learned that process doesn’t work for me at all. I was torn; what should I do going forward? How should I write my next book?
It wasn’t until I read statements by authors I admire, such as John Scalzi and Timothy Zahn, that I realized “editing as you go” is a completely valid option. And why wouldn’t it be? Just because something works for other authors, doesn’t mean it will work for me. The opposite is also true.
I’ve learned I need to edit as I go. I need to get a chapter as close to perfection as possible before I move on. That doesn’t mean I won’t read through after I’m done and edit even more, of course. But even though I love editing, I get really overwhelmed and frustrated if I have an entire manuscript in front of me, especially when I’ve just slogged through drafting–my least favorite part of writing.
I’ve also learned that writing slow is okay. I average about two chapter per week when I have my inner editor turned on, which isn’t much less than when I sprint draft. Letting myself take a day off from writing helps my brain process the story. It lets me brainstorm, think about the characters and where I want them to go. It gets me exited to write again. This is important for me, as I tend to get really exited about a new work in progress and then burn out as time goes on.
The writing process is different for all authors. And that is okay. There is no write or wrong way to write. If somebody tells you that, walk away.