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:
- They love writing the first draft but hate all the editing that comes after.
- 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:
- My professional editor – a friend who graciously gave me her comments and edits
- My beta readers – who gave me feedback on the basic story
- 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.
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.
Are you typically a first drafter or an editor? Can you empathize with me, or do you think I’m crazy? 😉