Friday Writing Question: Draft or Edit

Hi, SEers! Mae here today with something for you to ponder. During the course of life, there are many mind-boggling questions that cross our paths.

Which came first—the chicken or the egg?
If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?
What happens when an unstoppable object meets an immovable object?

And the one I’m trotting out today:

As a writer, do you prefer to draft or edit?

Cartoon of exhausted-looking woman slouching in her desk chair in front of a computer. Her partner notices the computer cord and says, "No wonder you can't write, you're not plugged in."

For the most part, I do both together. I’ve always had a hard time turning off my inner editor, so I edit as I draft. When I’m done with a WIP, I have a fairly clean manuscript as a result. But occasionally, I’m forced to undertake NaNo imposed writing sessions to meet deadlines.

Writing is a blur during those times as I churn out word count and giddily watch my numbers soar. But when I go back to clean up the mess, it takes me longer to edit than when I undertake the task as I work.

You know how writers combine plotting and pantsing to be a planster? I need a word for combining drafting and editing.  For me—the answer to the question—is a combination of both.

Now it’s your turn. Which is it? Editing or drafting or somewhere in between?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Ready, set, go!

bio box for author Mae Clair

39 thoughts on “Friday Writing Question: Draft or Edit

  1. As much as I love writing, I discovered that I absolutely hate the first draft stage. Unless…I know exactly what I need to write.
    So for me, the true drafting process happens during the outline stage. There I mostly draft and edit at the same time, with the difference that I don’t have to revise an entire first draft but just short notes.
    Great food for thoughts!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Irene. I think you’re the first person to mention such this approach. It certainly does help to have everything outlined as much as possible, drafting and editing as you go. I usually end up abandoning my outline/notes when the draft starts to go astray–which it usually does, LOL!
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and I’m glad you enjoyed the post!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m glad to see I’m not the only only one who edits as she drafts. (I thought of drediting, too, which I quite like the sound of. 😀 ) For me, as I’m drafting, I just see places and phrases that don’t work, and I change them immediately. If I wait until I’m done with the draft, I will have forgotten a lot of them, or I’ll simply miss them. I prefer to do my final revisions on the cleanest possible draft, before I submit it to my wonderful editor for the acid test. And it would seriously hurt my brain to leave something I know sounds terrible before moving on to the next chapter of the draft.

    Having said all of that, sometimes when I can’t think of the exact word I want, I’ll leave a few highlighted asterisks to mark the spot, and return to it later, for a fresh look. Still, I usually do that in fairly early on, so it’s been dealt with before I start my last, pre-professional edit revisions.

    Yeah, drediting works for me. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s nice to meet someone else who dredits 🙂

      The way you work sounds exactly like me, Marcia. It’s only when I’m in panicked by a looming deadline that I write without regard for editing. It’s usually near the end of the book and the mess it makes is wretched to clean up. At least then I know I have a finished product and just need to massage it. Well, more like wrangle/pound it into submission before sending it off to my editor. The last time was torture.

      I will happily dredit as much as possible moving ahead! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s hard for me to turn off the internal editor, so I edit as I go. I wrote my first book in draft and when I finished, it was a convoluted mess. It takes longer to edit as I write, but I have a cleaner product.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I feel the same way, Joan. My internal editor is always nagging that something (a word, scene, phrase, snippet of dialog) isn’t just right. Nag, nag, nag! It does make for cleaner writing but sometimes I just want to shove it aside and wing it! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • I get a thrill when I can read the story for the first time from start to finish too, Sue. There’s something pretty awesome in going back and seeing how everything flows together,

      And I’m so glad I’m not the only one who edits as they go. Sometimes it’s torture…especially when my word count suffers as a result, but I guess it all works out in the end. Happy Easter!

      Like

  4. I always back up to my last chapter and work through it before I start for the day. I suppose that makes me a bit like you. My favorite part is drafting new material, by far. Drafting is creative and fun. Root monsters and talking yaks show up. Editing is work, which I don’t hate, but it isn’t the same.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I always reread the last chapter or at least the last scene before I start, too. But them I’m also constantly rereading paragraphs as I write and fiddling with them. It means slow progress on my word count.

      Drafting is definitely far more creative and fun when you turn off the editor. And I love what your muse sends you with root monsters, talking yaks and more!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I write like you do. I end up with a clean first draft, but I’d write faster if I could turn off my inner editor. Still, I think what I lose in writing speed I gain in revision speed, so it’s all okay in the end.

    When I read your question, the first term that came to my mind was “dreading” but I have to say, I like “dreditting” better.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I think the beginning is the hardest to nail down and I will spend days and weeks massaging it until I have it just right. The first chapter of my newest WIP was a nightmare with countless edits before I was ready to move onto chapter two. I have noticed the deeper I get into a book the more apt I am to turn off my editor and write. Again, that usually only happens because I’ve run out of time and have no choice but to finish. Editing as you write definitely slows you down.

    It’s interesting how you and your daughter have different techniques.

    Wishing you an awesome weekend and Happy Easter, too, Denise! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I draft the whole thing first for fear that I will become discouraged with the work and stop. I take it on faith that the first draft will be crap that can be fixed. If I stopped to fix as I write, I think I might be mired in the number of mistakes. However, once I have 90+ thousand words written I owe the manuscript a thoughtful edit. By the way, this is just me.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Deading. Hmm. An interesting choice. I tried to come up with a word but kept coming up blank.

      I used to think editing was easier because the work was already done and I had very little cleanup to do by the time the draft was finished. But now—those weeks of banshee writing to reach a deadline were killing me, LOL!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Drafting for me. I love the thrill of initial creation. Fine-tuning is important, but that requires a lot more focus and restraint. There’s some stress relief that comes from knowing you can just go with an idea and fix it later. Of course, I do a lot of character bios and outlines, which I sometimes count as a 1/2 draft. That probably makes my draft a lot easier.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I always love the thrill of initial creation when sitting down with a new story idea and jotting notes about characters and plot lines. Then I get to chapter one and I have a meltdown because it takes me so long to get it right. On my current WIP I think I rewrote chapter one at least 5 times. The starting point kept changing, characters changed, even key plot points. I guess I need to better on my outlines so my draft has a smoother start. Thanks, Charles!

      Liked by 1 person

      • The strangest thing is that my hiccups don’t start until chapter 3. I don’t know why I always stumble and slow down for a bit here. I wonder if I always make that a transition section to go from intro/opening act to the next piece. My outlines are pretty thorough to help me go quickly since I don’t always have a lot of time. What style of outline do you use?

        Liked by 2 people

      • I see what you mean about the transition between the opening and the next act. I just finished the first three chapters of my WIP and am probably going to get hung up on chapter 4.

        For outlining, I develop characters first, who generally lead me to the story. I make notes in Word which are constantly being tweaked until I have a good starting point and some history for both characters and setting. I also make handwritten notes in book that I use for brainstorming and scribbling things like town diagrams and street layouts. Lately, I’ve started using Excel to make spreadsheets of timelines as my most recent works feature both a past and present timeline that have to merge at the end. I guess you could say I have a hodgepodge of stuff, or a general mess. I keep thinking I should learn Scrivener and maybe my outlining and notes would be better arranged. How about you? What do you use?

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Until my current WIP, I always edited as I wrote. On this novel, Aftermath, (perhaps aptly titled!), I’ll have a lot of editing to do because I just wrote and wrote. It came in useful because if I’d edited as I went, I would have unwritten a character that popped up at random, but in looking back later at what I’d written, I came up with a great use for her, lol. I still have to correct typos as I go, though, lol. So, at the moment, I’m probably somewhere in the middle like you. I love Steve’s Dredditing. Better than my Drafted … or maybe the editing feels like conscription at times!! Thanks, Mae 🙂 Reblogged this on: https://harmonykent.co.uk/friday-writing-question-draft-or-edit/

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the reblog, Harmony!

      I wish I could unlearn the edit-as-I-go technique. There is a lot of freedom in just pouring out words. I remember the one and only time I had a successful NaNoWriMo it was wonderful to just write and write without having to stop and tweak. That book became A Thousand Yesteryears, the first novel of my Point Pleasant Series. I think I was able to write like that because I had spent a full weeks prior to nothing but outlining, creating character bios and writing scene order for the first 3-4 chapters.I need to devote the time like that again.

      And I love those characters who pop up at of nowhere and you have no idea what to do with them when they first appear. I’ve had several of those lately, including one who became a lead in a later book!

      Ooo–dredditing. I like that!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. My daughter edits as she writes, but I find it slows me down. Although I like to get the beginning right to see where I’m going.

    Have a great weekend snd Easter!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think the beginning is the hardest to nail down and I will spend days and weeks massaging it until I have it just right. The first chapter of my newest WIP was a nightmare with countless edits before I was ready to move onto chapter two. I have noticed the deeper I get into a book the more apt I am to turn off my editor and write. Again, that usually only happens because I’ve run out of time and have no choice but to finish. Editing as you write definitely slows you down.

      It’s interesting how you and your daughter have different techniques.

      Wishing you an awesome weekend and Happy Easter, too, Denise!

      Liked by 1 person

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