Six tips to ignore that editing urge as you write - Lynne Garner

Recently I've been teaching a number of creative writing classes. During those classes I've been asked about editing and when it should be done. My answer as always was "don't stop to edit, just get it all down and go back later."  The replies from my students have all been very similar. They said they felt if they had an idea, wanted to embellish etc. that it had to be done there and then. Unfortunately if they listened to that feeling they discovered they'd lost the 'flow.' What follows are my six suggestions I gave to help them ignore that editing urge as you write:

If you're old school and use a note pad:

Only write on the right hand page. The left hand page is then blank, ready and waiting for those brilliant ideas you want insert into your story later.

Choose a pad with wide lines and write on every other line. This gives you a line to add notes. It may also benefit you to write those notes in a different colour.

If all else fails make notes on a sticky note and stick on the relevant page.

PC users only:

If you're like me and type straight onto the screen (using Microsoft word) then get to grips with adding comments as you go. Simply highlight a word, phrase or sentence you want to adjust then click on 'insert' (at the very top of your screen), click on 'comment' and add your notes.

For old school and PC users:

If you can't think of that 'right' word then don't force it, simply fill the space with a few question marks (in a different colour if that helps) and go back to it later.

Last but not least if you suffer with that editing urge as your write then give yourself a prize for ignoring it. I find an incentive of a hot chocolate or anything chocolate related normally keeps me on the straight and narrow.

If you have any other suggestions please do add share them below in the comments box.


Now for a blatant plug - don't say I didn't warn you:

My latest short story collection Coyote Tales Retold is available on Amazon in ebook format. Also available Meet The Tricksters a collection of 18 short stories featuring Anansi the Trickster Spider, Brer Rabbit and Coyote is available as a paper back and an ebook.    

I run the following online courses for Women On Writing:


Wendy H. Jones said…
Great tips. Thanks for taking time to share them
Bill Kirton said…
Some beginners don't realise that writing and editing are separate disciplines. I'm with you, Lynne, don't try to do them both at the same time. Also, put as much time as possible between them.
Susan Price said…
I've never thought of it like that, Bill, but you're right. When you're focussed on creating, on living through your characters - that's not the time to be fretting about the nuance of one word or whether you're being too wordy.

I've always found that if an idea is worth remembering, I'll remember it - because it's connected into the whole piece. When I come that way again, in editing mode, I'll remember. The memory will probably drag a lot of other good stuff with it too. But I know that this advice often seems too airy-fairy for beginners, so Lynne's tips are a life-line.
Umberto Tosi said…
Excellent tips: they work to keep functions separate, usefully because storytelling and editing involve distinct and competing brain functions. Maybe some people have learned to do both at the same time, but not this writer. I also have to watch out for the shame monster to lunge forth during the revision and editing process, a withering embarrassment at "not getting it right." Go away, shame. You strangle stories in their cradles.
Unknown said…
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Lynne Garner said…
Bill - good tip about putting time between. I'll add that to mine (oh and of course credit you).

Susan - You've a better memory than I have. There are few ideas that stick but many seemed to get filed away in that 'somewhere safe place' never to emerge again.

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