I’m on this topic as I face a writer’s temptation, and to succumb to these snares sends one to the purgatory of a special kind of writer’s block. I write at a speed of approximately one chapter a night. Sometimes it’s more, often it’s less, but at a point I run into a wall and can’t move forward. At this point I take pleasure in the finer things in life, since I’ve already cleaned the house as an excuse not to write.
When I get closer to finishing, I do not appreciate this open space. I want to write all the time, dedicating every waking minute not at work to my literary pursuits, so there is now the temptation to edit. I want to print it out and start editing and fixing plot holes once I hit that wall of productive writing.
Often times, people don’t get this far without editing. I had someone tell me you’re to write three chapters, then go back and edit them. Write another two chapters and edit all five. This is going to be great in making sure everything is put together in a solid manner. It will also take you a decade to finish a book.
For those who like going back and editing what is there, some of you are very capable. I have a friend who goes back and rereads what she wrote the other day (a very good practice), and does minor grammar fixes and that’s it. She has amazing willpower. Here is my problem, and the problem with many others who go back and edit. You see all of the errors, the clunky dialogue, the plot hole you dug, and you freeze. Your eyes go wide, you start to freak out, and you go into perfectionist mode.
Instead of writing that day, you go back and completely edit everything done. You edit it again and again, pull out your hair, and when baldness has nearly taken root, you throw out the manuscript and swear never to write again. While returning to the beginning once finished will still surely put you in a funk, the book is finished. It just needs refining. Better to finish and refine, than to refine as if to finish.
While this advice may not work for all of you, I am betting the vast majority has hit this block. I will roll the dice that several have reached a point where they thought it would be fun to edit, only to enter a Twilight Zone which disbanded any courage to finish the story. If you have found you are one of those people, heed these warnings. While I highly suggest reading a few paragraphs from the previous writing session, do not sit down with the intent to edit until the final words are kindly placed upon the document. That negative inner editor will hate you, but that part of you who always wanted to finish a novel will hug you until you feel smothered.