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.

-M-

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.

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7 thoughts on “Writing doesn’t make you a better writer…

  1. I agree, but writing is a huge part of it. You take everything you learn and apply it every time you write then the editing becomes less tedious.

    1. I agree. You can’t be a writer if you don’t write. But, at least in my experience, you don’t learn the most from writing. You learn a lot while you write, then you learn more when you edit and then you have less work to do when you move on to whatever you are working on next. It is an ongoing process and writing is always the most important part of it, but editing, I think, can teach you the most about your strengths and weaknesses as a writer because you are viewing the piece as a whole rather than as pieces. At least that’s the case for me. (and I hate editing. I hate it so much. I really can’t stress how much I hate the editing process :D)

      1. Have you been critiqued yet? It’s taught me a lot. More than writing and editing combined. And it’s made me cry.

      2. I have been critiqued but unfortunately not in a long time. I haven’t had anything in a while I was willing to share with the world.

        I will, sooner rather than later hopefully, send out the novel I just finished to Editor and Writer friends of mine for beta-reads. I fully expect to cry but I look forward to seeing what they have to say to.

        What kinds of things have you learned about yourself/your writing from being critiqued?

      3. Pretty much every writing related topic on my blog is the result of critiquing — things I was bad at. The biggest thing was show don’t tell — I wanted to put my head through a wall trying to grasp it. On a personal level, I realized I had to stop writing and take time to learn if I wanted to go anywhere.

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