The Best Time to Not Edit

A lot of times when we are writing, we are tempted after each paragraph or scene to go back and edit everything, because rewriting something we've written is easier and less complicated than moving on to the next. It's also a matter of perfectionism-we want to make sure that it's the best that it can be, right there and then. However, most experienced writers will tell you time after time not to do this. Why? Because if you spend all your time going back and editing, how are you ever going to get through one draft? There are some moments of writing when it is definitely better to not edit, and I'm going to be talking about one today.

There are parts of most stories and books where we have to write an emotional scene. Whether it's something we've experienced or not, it's never the easiest thing. Dialogue and descriptions take a lot of editing to get them to their most realistic state, which makes it one of the most tempting times to go back and edit. However, this is possibly one of the best times to not edit.

These scenes are hard to write, which is why sometimes I will completely go back and rewrite them after I've gone through something similar, or at least while remembering that experience. For example, last night was one of the harder nights of my life, although I did not fully grasp that until this morning, probably due to how late it was. See, my sister, who is basically my twin at this point in life, is leaving for Cuba in July on a mission trip, and then she's transferring to a college in Michigan. Last night was possibly the very last time that our whole family was with two other families that we are extremely close to, because one of them, who we've known for longer, is going to be gone all June. It was hard. Hard for my sister, and hard for me. They're family to us, and she won't see them much for a very long time. They will maybe have one more day, when we have our send off party for my sister, but it won't be the same as us just hanging out at one of our houses.

I'm telling you this, because it is the reason why I was able to write an emotional scene more accurately. There is no better time than to write a tearful goodbye or even a death scene than when you have just finished saying goodbye yourself. I was feeling very sad that night, because while I will continue seeing them on a regular basis in the next few months, it was a reminder that I only have a few months before it's me saying goodbye. It broke my heart, and so I sat down with my laptop and channeled all those emotions into a scene. I didn't stop to edit it, I didn't pause to look back over my words. I just wrote.

In the heat of the moment, when whatever emotion it is rages inside of you, don't stop to edit, or "fix" things. Just write. Get as much of that emotion onto the page as you can. Why? Because there will always be plenty of time to edit it, to trim back the excess dialogue and cut back on the unnecessary descriptions. You can always go back and edit that scene to tone down the emotions if there are too many, to make it as realistic as you need to. But, you can only write that way when you are in the middle of that emotion.

Later, when the emotions have faded, that's when you should edit. When you're going back through with a clear mind and an unbiased heart, not being affected by those emotions as you edit. Otherwise, you may end up with a scene that seems sappy or over-the-top to readers.

Finally, don't waste those emotions. I'm not saying that you need to write every time you're feeling sad or angry or lonely, but if you have a scene that needs more of that emotion, and that needs to be rewritten with it, then go all out. Don't be afraid to put those thoughts and feelings on paper. Why? Because humans are more alike than we think, and chances are those thoughts have run through your readers' heads in those exact situations.
Emotions, true, raw human emotions are the only way we can really create empathy with our readers. That's why the more authentic ones you put in your book and give your characters, the more likely it is that readers will connect with them.  So don't waste them. Sit down, pick up your pen, pencil, quill, keyboard, or whatever else you write with, and just write. That's the only way to get anything done, after all.


Until Next Time, Your Sister in Writing and Christ, 
~Arella Noreen