Confessions of a Reformed Pre-Editor

This post doesn't contain any new or revolutionary information. As a matter of fact, it's something that gets said a lot. I think there's a reason for that, and as someone who has fallen into the trap on a regular basis, I don't think it's something that can be said too often.

Last night while talking to a friend who is showing an increased interest in putting his own ideas into words, I told him the best thing he can do is just to vomit out the rough draft. Don't go back and read. Don't worry about inconsistencies or plot holes. Forget about the fact that you had a great idea for a character who isn't introduced until halfway through the piece, who suddenly becomes more interesting than the protagonist. 

Just get the words out onto the page or the screen.

Therein lies the problem for a fair amount of authors. We want perfection. We want everyone to love our piece as much as we do, so we go over it and over it. The details have to be just right. The word choices. This is our baby, and we have to present it in all its glory to the world.

The only problem with that is we sometimes can't move on. There are still times when I think about Ride the Train and wish I had written a passage differently. There should have been a different word choice. Or, as some of my readers have brought up on occasion, maybe a certain character could have lived. Knowing all of the edits, re-writes, and re-re-writes I did with that novel--not to mention cutting about 20,000 words from the rough draft to the final draft--some might think it's crazy to still think about changes to a novel that was published almost two years ago.

But I do.

Even now the urge to go back and edit what I'm currently writing is sometimes too hard to resist. I think it's okay to break your own self-imposed rule every once in a while. However, when editing an in-progress piece takes more of your time and focus than writing that piece, you've got a problem. There is always time to edit, but creativity and progress are stifled by the desire to make a piece into something it will never be--perfect.