Every day when my boyfriend gets home from work lately he asks me a question.
“Did you edit today?” He’s talking about my NaNoWriMo novel that I wrote in November and am now editing in two and three page stints because editing makes me stir crazy.
I was talking to him about this the other day when I had an epiphany:
Writing doesn’t make you a better writer.
Hear me out.
If you are writing-whether it be the same story fifteen times or fifteen different stories-writing itself doesn’t make you a better writer. If it did there are a great deal of people who I know write A LOT who should be giving Charles Dickens a run for his money by now. Yet they remain as incomprehensible as ever year after year after year.
If your goal is to be a writer, you will-theoretically- improve incrementally as you write because hopefully you catch some of the mistakes you are making along the way and make an effort to not do those things anymore. That’s part of our job as writers and part of what makes editing later easier.
But what I have found makes a writer actually better at writing is editing.
I hate editing. I hate it with a fiery passion that would burn out the sun if it came to close. I like the creative part. The making stories up and putting them down on paper part. But as a writer you HAVE to edit. You have to suck it up and deal with it because that’s where the most painful lessons about your writing happens. Things you didn’t even know you do will suddenly catch your eye and you’ll think “Wow. I do that a lot I should stop that.” Or, when character writing, you might find that even though all of your characters sounded distinct in your head, when put on the page they don’t sound all that unique. Things like that you are most likely going to catch when you go back and edit your piece.
If you wrote fifty pages a day for the next year, your writing would improve. That’s not what I’m saying. Most people will learn as they go. But you learn more by making it your mission to find your mistakes and fix them-which is what editing is in its essence after all. Finding as many mistakes as possible-whether it be prose, grammar, spelling, plot holes etc…-and fixing them for the greater good of the piece.
Editing doesn’t just make what you are already working on better, it makes your next story, essay, blog etc…better because you will have learned things about your writing that you can use as you move from piece to piece. Editing will never be fun and there will always be things you learn about your writing style with every new thing that you write. But, hopefully, if you are editing properly you won’t find yourself making the same mistakes over and over and over.
Now, I’m going to make a couple of character profiles for my next novel in Scrivener, and then I am going to go edit.
P.S. If you have been following a long with my Christmas short stories written by Cornelius the Elf, look for the next installment “Frosty the Snowman” tomorrow afternoon.