Goldilocks On Editing: Eat From All 3 Bowls



^You’ve heard that, yes? [Maybe in a less hyperbolic manner…] We writers should not edit our first drafts right away. We’re too close to them. The words and ideas are too fresh. We need to let them rest / chill / simmer / mellow / fester / [insert similar passive verb here].

This, like all advice, is subjective. And, well, it is advice, but it is not law.

In a similarly subjective manner, I’d like to toss my Goldilocks-esque thoughts in the opinion pool. [Because, honestly, all “advice” is opinion. My opinion can sink or swim. I don’t mind either way. Because the Universe will continue to do its thang, regardless.]

Check this: You can edit as soon as you type/write the very last period of your first draft.

I call this “Hot” editing. I’m a believer in hot edits: hitting the words right away, while the draft is still searing hot. [My reasoning is down in the convo which follows.] I’m also a believer in “Cold” edits: at some point, once my brain and heart and soul feel it’s time to back away, I back.the.hell.away, and let my manuscript do one of those resting-verb thingies.

Some folks might need a few weeks or 6 months or eons before touching that first draft ever again. Cool. Awesome. Do only that cold thing, then.

Some folks are itching under their skin and will basically die and/or implode if they don’t dive into edits right away. Cool. Awesome. Do that hot thing, then.

This post was triggered by a convo in an online writer’s group, the #4evnos. In this little corner of the
e x p a n s i v e  Writing Universe, this is what we discovered:

Crystal Ord: Curious…how long do you guys wait before jumping into edits/revisions of a first draft? I have vowed to give it a couple weeks but I already have the itchy keyboard fingers.

AJ Pine: Welp, because I’m on deadline, I finished drafting Sunday and started editing Tuesday. 😉

Lex Martin: Yeah, it depends on other deadlines for sure. But if you have the motivation to do it now, that’s a definite bonus.

Katie Bailey: For me, it depends on the project. Often enough, I’ll do it right away, but I do have one that I’ve pushed off editing simply because I’m working my way through other manuscripts and I don’t know what it means to take a break. I mean, what?

Brighton Walsh: I’ve always done them immediately, with just a day or two off in between.

Lucas Hargis: I know some folks give the advice of: “Let it sit.” I jump in right away. Here’s my reasoning: The voice and events at the end are still fresh in my mind. Wrapping around back to the beginning with those still burning bright-white helps create a beautiful continuity. So the voice and echo of the ending can be successfully edited in the beginning. In my opinion. Sure, I step away & let it sit/breathe/mellow later. But not until a full pass or two. Or three…

Crystal Ord: Well, this all makes me feel better then. I might just jump right back into it. I’ve always heard about writers letting a manuscript rest so they can come back to it with fresh eyes…I never normally do this but thought I’d give it a try…it’s torture, haha!

Lucas Hargis: I believe some precious value is lost with a waiting period.

Allison Varnes: Last summer, I made a full pass edit after finishing the draft, sat on it for two weeks, and then made myself do it again. And again. 🙂

Crystal Ord: I just hear SO much about coming back to it later that I was starting to think I’ve been doing things all wrong!

Lucas Hargis: Maybe those folks mean “at some point” step away and let it air out?

BA Wilson Writes: I jump back in almost immediately for a full pass, because by the end, I haven’t seen the beginning in awhile. Then, like Lucas said, everything is still fresh. . . . However, I’m that compulsive type of editor/rewriter, so it will go through a few rounds before I even let anyone else look at it. When I start feeling too on top of it and second-guessing everything I’m doing, then I step away from editing for awhile and take a break.

Lucas Hargis: We share the same process, BA.

Crystal Ord: Yep, that sounds about right, BA. 🙂 That is exactly what I like to do!

AJ Pine: That’s the thing. There is no right or wrong when it comes to the process. Correct answer is always what works best for you. #peptalksbyamy

KK Hendin: I go right from drafting to editing. I don’t reread while I’m drafting so edits are kind of a blank slate, in that I don’t remember everything. Then I edit until I hate it and then send it to CPs and repeat until it’s done.

Katie Bailey: Normally, I edit as I go. It makes for a longer writing process, but the technical editing stage isn’t as intense. On the whole, I’ll often edit a manuscript right away once I’ve finished. I can distance myself enough to see if everything makes sense, but I’m still in the zone. There’s only once I really waited on going back to edit, but that was because I had another manuscript that I needed to work on and I was pressed for time.

Olivia Hinebaugh: Umm. A few days? As long as it takes to binge watch something on Netflix and read a good book.

Lucas Hargis: So you DO put a little space/time between yourself & the new words, Olivia Hinebaugh?

Olivia Hinebaugh: I mean, a bit. I like to go in and slash pretty early. 😉 Because slashing is always the first since I don’t know where the plot is going to go when I start writing. haha. #pantser

Olivia Hinebaugh: One more thing to add: normally when I’m finishing a draft and I’m in beast mode, I am denying myself reading and watching anything, so when I finish drafting, all I want to do is pick back up with the old TBR pile.

BA Wilson Writes: The only reason I pause at all at the end of a novel is to drown in all the epic feels for a moment (usually the rest of the night). Then I buckle down and start the first edit the next day.

Brighton Walsh: Okay, so I write and edit almost immediately. Those are grammar and content edits, polish it as good as I can, send off to CPs/betas and do it all over again before I finally let it sit for maybe a week or two and then read it from start to finish one last time.

Natasha Neagle: Haha. I waited 6 LONG, painful days.


So those are thoughts from 11 #4evno writers [in the almost infinite population of the Writing Universe]. None of it is law.

We hear and read stuff like “advice”, and, wanting to do the very best we possibly can, we sometimes trick ourselves into believing somebody else’s process is Universal Law. [See opening statement.] Eff that. Do you.

Edit hot. Or edit cold. Or do both. Or make up your own temperature that’s basically anti-matter that would negate everybody else’s. You can do that.

The key, I believe, is to test out a few methods. Read about others’ processes, but don’t let those opinions stifle your very own unique way of doing things.

Find your Goldilocks method—the one that’s jussssst riiiiight for you.

I promise, the Universe won’t explode. Probably.

Much love to the #4evnos for ongoing encouragement, discussion, laughter, STICKERS, and agreeing to let me share their words here. You can find every last one of them on ol’ Twitter. Say hi.

And a simple Google search turned up a dozen other convos very similar to this one. Some folks preach cold-edits-only as LAW. Meh. What about you? What’s YOUR specific & unique editing preference? Which bowl(s) do you go for?