When Should Writers Edit Their Work?

As I writer I know what it feels like when someone tells me what writers should or should not do. As such, take my advice as suggestions—backed up by a few years of experience. If your method works for you, then use your method. But this is what works for me and others I know when it comes to self-editing.
Below are a few ways to look at the question: When should writers consider editing their work?

When should writers edit their work? As they write? Afterward? And should they put a lot of effort into it before submitting it? I’ll dive into these questions here.

First, should writers edit their manuscript before submitting it for publication? Then, should they do it during the writing process? I feel the answers are similar regardless of the writing genre.

So whether you’re a poet, novelist, blogger, or journalist, let’s break this down one piece at a time.

Every writer knows that the journey to publication is a long and hard road. Once you finish your first draft, it’s time to start the arduous process of self-editing and revision.

Here is a link to an old post to ensure your writing is free of grammatical errors.

9 Grammar Tips for Editing

Should Writers Edit Their Work Before Submitting?

The easy answer to this question is yes. Agents and editors expect pitches, proposals, manuscripts, and other submission materials to be as polished and professional as possible. This doesn’t mean an agent or editor won’t suggest more edits after acceptance, but most professional writers usually require the least edits. And all writers should try to be professional. I aim to have at least four rounds of edits completed before even showing to anyone. 

A strong piece of advice––edit it as much as you can. You don’t want to be sending your first draft with minor errors that you could’ve picked up yourself. You want whoever you want to read over your manuscript to focus on story, plot and character development instead of the minor errors.

Should Writers Edit During the Writing Process?

The answer to this question is a little trickier, especially when I consider the editing and revision process part of the writing process. And as a writer, I don’t think the writing process is completely over.

That said, I often advise writers to focus on finishing their first draft before putting in too much time on the revision or editing process. The simple reason: momentum.

I’ve seen many writers struggle to finish the first draft because they get distracted fixing this problem or that scene. But I know a secret: No matter how perfect your first draft, there is going to be room for editing and revision in the second draft. So focus on finishing that first draft and then jump into the recreation process.

When Should Writers Edit Their Work? Final Thoughts.

If I notice a typo in the first paragraph while typing up the second, then yes, I’ll fix it. But if I notice a structural concern emerge, I’ll go ahead and finish that first draft (but I’ll leave a side note to address it in the second draft). Because I’ve found it’s a lot easier to revise a complete first draft than to fix up half a draft and then try to rekindle the spark that started the story or poem in the first place.

When do you think you should edit? What works best for you? Discuss in the comments below. If you think someone has an interesting point of view, questions or an answer, please invite them or share this post with them.

#DouglasWTSmith #editing

2 thoughts on “When Should Writers Edit Their Work?

  1. I realize that you’re probably discussing longer works and therefore I heartily agree with when you should edit. I find myself needing to ignore the text that I’ve written or else I’ll feel compelled to edit/rewrite which means that I might never get finished writing! 🙂

    I have found though, when I’m writing flash fiction that I frequently edit as I write mainly because there’s no use writing 400 words if 100 is your maximum. I wonder if other writers find themselves adapting as per length.

    Good post!


  2. Short answer: never! 😛 hehe, but seriously, I suffer from a bit of OCD when it comes to grammar and edits. I find myself going back to edit lines, as I am in the process of writing new lines! Probably a bad habit.


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