Sunday, January 18, 2015

writing is editing

Editing not only changes a piece of writing; it also transforms the writer. I recently read a quote about how a writer changes from the first book to the second. That idea stuck to me, that the old you already wrote the first piece of work. It doesn’t matter what a reader thinks of the quality of the book. The process itself is transformative. The side effects of the process are transformative.

I thought of some of my favorite editing tips I learned throughout the years. Writers are an incredibly supportive community and connecting with them has helped me more than anything.

-Put a piece of work in a different font before rereading it.

-Read your work out loud. (Zadie Smith famously advised to read your work as an enemy would!)

-Take time between drafts.

-It’s easy to throw out parts of your story that are bad but you know your work has improved when you’re throwing out parts that are good.

-Every page and chapter should give the reader a reason to move on. Leave space for secrets, conflicts, and cliff hangers.  

-Sit with each character and study his or her arcs. Make sure there is a sense of change from the beginning to the end of the story.


  1. Ah it's so nice to come back here for a visit and find lots of your posts to mull over. Always so many thoughtful lists. I really had to think about that line, throwing out parts that are good. I'm not sure if I'm there yet. I have, however, cut lines that I thought were good because they didn't fit in a certain place. I put them in a separate document called "notes" and revisit them occasionally; and sometimes I find I can put them back in, but in a different spot

  2. Fantastic post! I had not heard the one about reading your work like your enemy would. Hmm. Very interesting. And it has my wheels spinning just thinking about it. THANKS!!

  3. I too back all these views. It was one of my colleagues who actually told me the secret that writing is editing. Even I have heard the same view while listening to Jhumpa Lahiri's interview