Editing - Love It or Loathe It? by Allison Symes

Image Credit:  All images created in Book Brush using Pixabay pictures.

I’ll put my hands up and say I love editing. I’ll also confess to being an editor.  

So not unbiased here, are you, Allison? 


Am not sorry.



I learned a long, long time ago (and in a galaxy far, far away) nobody writes the perfect first draft. Shakespeare didn’t. Dickens didn’t. Austen didn’t.

So the chances of yours truly writing a perfect first draft are zilch to the power of ten million squared, cross out the first number you thought of etc.

That’s fine. Knowing this has made me feel better about editing. Feeling better has been the first step for me getting on with the business of editing and finding this is okay. It can be creative in its own right.



What I love about editing is when you sense your draft has been “sharpened”. As a flash fiction writer, I must make every word count, which has brought on my editing skills considerably. I now know what my wasted words are. Those go immediately on my first run through. 

I get my editing off to a flying start as a result. It is why I believe every writer, whatever they write, should try flash fiction. Sharpening editing skills is invaluable. 



The other side of the coin is when to edit.

For me, that’s always after I’ve written a draft and rested it. I don’t edit as I go. I know I’d be stuck on the first paragraph.

My favourite quote on this comes from Terry Pratchett who describes the first draft as “you telling yourself the story”. That is it to a T, is it not?

You can’t know what the story is until you have written the whole thing and got that initial idea out of your system. That’s as true whether, like me, you’re writing 100 word tales or running the gauntlet of a 100,000 word novel.



The other thing that has helped is realising even the tedious side (the spelling and grammar checks) are vital to making your work the best it can be. What author doesn’t want that and to give their “baby” the best chance out there as a result?

Can you edit too much? Yes.

Your story should flow and have a powerful emotional resonance with a reader, whether it is to make them laugh, cry, or scream at the latest monster you’ve invented. You can reduce that impact if you over-edit, which is where trusted beta readers are invaluable. They can tell you if you’ve overdone it.



I’ve learned now to leave a story at, say, 200 words if it flows better, has more impact etc than to try to make it fit a 100 word competition I’ve got my eye on. I write something else for the competition instead. 

But it takes time to build up the confidence to know yes, I’ve gone as far as I can with this one, time to get it out there and see how it does.


Susan Price said…
I'm with you, Allison. I find writing the first draft is often a slog. Rewriting and editing is much more fun.
Allison Symes said…
Thanks, Susan. I'm sure a lot of this is sheer relief I have got something down I can then work into shape.
Eden Baylee said…
Hi Allison, great points.

The first draft is hard, and I tend to edit as I go (I know I shouldn't but I can't help it! ).

In the end, several rounds with an editor definitely polishes the copy, and always improves it.

Allison Symes said…
Many thanks, Eden. I know I'd hamstring myself if I edited as I went but I know it works for some. What matters though is getting that first draft down any old how! All can get better in the editing!
Ruth Leigh said…
Very true, Allison. You can't edit a blank page.
Allison Symes said…
Many thanks, Ruth. I've learned over time to face the "fear" and just get something down on the page. What comes out in the edit is my secret!
Peter Leyland said…
Thanks Alison. I'm more of an academic, essay style, writer but find it works in much the same way. I have an idea, write about 1200 words in draft, and then chop and change until it begins to feel right. I'm finding this blog a wonderful way to try things out.
Peter Leyland said…
Sorry about the spelling mistake Allison. More editing required!
Allison Symes said…
Many thanks, Peter. And the curse of the dreaded typo does hit us all. Even in a thoroughly edited work, the wretched things can still creep in. There will never be a day when we don't need the red pen treatment!

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