Dichotomy of a Writer: Part Three

Are you a first drafter or an editor?

I spent much of the summer editing the first novel in my Beauty and the Beast-inspired epic fantasy series. I’ve written and edited novels in the past, but this one has felt different – like I unlocked a new level in my writing adventure. 🙂 More on this in a moment.

When it comes to writing a completed manuscript, most authors I know fall into one of two categories:

  1. They love writing the first draft but hate all the editing that comes after.
  2. They hate writing the first draft and love straightening it all out in the edits.

I used to think I fell in with the first group. Why? Because I’m a discovery writer. I love coming to a blank page and letting words flow out so I can chase them into their world. Once it comes to editing my own work, I get frustrated. I feel I’m too close to my story to appropriately assess it. Is this character developed enough? Is this plot line needed? Did this sentence convey what I meant it to? I know what it all means, but how can I know how the reader will assess it? When I edit for other people, I don’t have this problem, because I’m not in their head.

So, typically, I have placed myself in that first group: loving the first draft, hating the edits.

Back to my Beauty and the Beast story. Something in me shifted with this novel. And I’m excited about it. Per the usual, I loved writing the first draft. And then . . . I have loved editing its redrafts, too! What changed? Here’s my assessment of new factors:

  1. My professional editor –  a friend who graciously gave me her comments and edits
  2. My beta readers – who gave me feedback on the basic story
  3. My time frame – which allowed me to take some space from my first draft

Because of my editor and my beta readers, I knew where readers would most likely be confused, bored, or excited. This gave me a baseline for my own edits. Change this, not that. This works, that doesn’t. While editing, I haven’t had to constantly second-guess my own assessments. And, while I still had a solid deadline for completing the first draft, I had time to set it aside and work on other projects. So, when I came back to it – armed with outside comments – I was able to read it with fresh eyes.

Sometimes my cat makes me take space from my writing. The little usurper. 

As I approach each sentence, I can ask, “Do all these words have to be there?” and “If I take this section out, will the story be better, worse, or indifferent?” And, because I’ve had space from it, and because I know what not to take out based on my feedback, I can edit my project gleefully, without feeling like I’m “killing my darlings” as Stephen King would say.

When I can, I try to set my first drafts aside so I have fresh eyes for editing. Having that distanced perspective combined with that of outside readers made all the difference for this project.

So, this extroverted introvert/ pantser with a plan is also a first drafter who loves to edit. This is who I am. I love bringing two sides together – writing reconciliation!

Are you typically a first drafter or an editor? Can you empathize with me, or do you think I’m crazy? 😉


2 thoughts on “Dichotomy of a Writer: Part Three

  1. I haven’t really figured out which I am. I usually enjoy writing my first draft, but I often hit a bad spot somewhere after I have lots of scribblings and first draft ramblings – especially when I’ve written for NaNoWriMo because I trained myself to just write. To keep typing toward the word count goal. Consequently my first draft is not really drafted; in fact, sometimes it seems like disjointed nonsense.

    I guess that NaNo is not the only time that happens. I am realizing that I fairly regularly drop into this hole or bump up against a wall – where all of the ideas are swirling in my head and/or on my screen (or paper) and I go into panic mode wondering how in the world to tie them all together or to even line them up in some sort of sequence. I’m supposing this dilemma may be tied to the fact that I write non-fiction more than it would be with a story-line.

    At any rate, once I get through that big bump and get things untangled and moving in some direction, then I rather enjoy the actual editing and pruning and tweaking.


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