The Hazards of Speed Editing

The Hazards of Speed Editing and Why Writers Should Spend More Time on Revisions

The Hazards of Speed Editing
Photo by Dario via Flickr

The Hazards of Speed Editing and Why Writers Should Spend More Time on Revisions

We all know writing a novel takes time. And it takes even more time to edit the first few drafts. And, of course, a good editor is going to make you spend even more time on your novel manuscript.

All it takes is time. Or so it seems.

The funny thing about time is that it masks all of the good stuff that goes along with producing a polished novel. We're thinking, "Good grief, this is taking forever," but we're missing everything we're learning within that time. While it's taking forever, we're learning how to tighten sentences, paragraphs, and whole chapters. We're learning how to heighten the suspense, emotion, and tension of a scene. We're learning how to pinpoint scenes that fail to move the story forward. And we're learning how to strengthen characters and make them more likeable and believable.

It takes time to work through the revision process because we're learning along the way. If we rush through it, we're missing out on opportunities for improvement, not just for our writing skills but for our novel as well.

Rushing through the editing process, or what I like to call speed editing, can result in a novel that still needs more work. It's true that many novels, including novels by best-selling authors, still need more work even at the final stage. But since learning is a never-ending process, eventually we have to stop with the edits. We have to recognize that a novel is the best we can possibly make it at that particular time. If we're unsatisfied with our work, we need to do our best to tackle the issues that we know we're skilled enough to fix and then take a step back and realize that it's not going to be perfect.

Writing a polished novel is a big undertaking. But it's also really rewarding, provided we feel good about it. It's okay to believe that the novel needed more work—most novels do—and it's okay to say that we could have made it better, but we must be able to feel good about the work we've created so it can feel like a rewarding activity. If we rush through the edits, we risk missing out on this awesome opportunity.

Speed editing also makes it difficult to put into practice all of the things we've learned, hurting us later on down the road when we're writing our next novel. In order to make things stick, we need to practice. It's not going to happen overnight.

Giving our novels the time and effort they deserve will yield better writing, not just today but later on down the road. We owe it to ourselves to give each novel our best work.

Jody Calkins
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