Careful Who You Kill

Hello SErs. Harmony here. My current WIP is the first time I’ve written first draft without doing any editing. None at all. At first, I found it tough. But by now, having reached near the end, I’ve seen how useful it can be … even a life saver.

Early on, a character called Jenny popped up unexpectedly. I hadn’t plotted or planned for her, but there she was all the same. And then, a short while later, I killed her off. By the time I got to the middle of the novel and read back over what had gone before, I realised that this minor character had come on stage only to leave abruptly. With no role. No purpose that I could see.

Umm …

In my previous modus operandi, I would have written her out of existence, killing her off for real. She wouldn’t have been in the finished book. But what I have learned from this experience of not editing as I write is how much more freedom that gives my muse.

Usually, it’s a constant tug of war between my inner editor and my creative muse. Sadly, my inner editor has a strong voice, one that is difficult to ignore. This means my muse often gets buried. Not allowing my editor a say until the revision stage begins has allowed my muse much more free reign. And, it turns out, she knows what she’s doing.

Poor old Jenny gives me a great way to introduce a plot device later on, which also adds yet another twist to the tale. And I get to look really clever to my readers for putting in such a fantastic plant early on, lol. That’s the great thing about revision: writers get to be omniscient.

Basically, I use Jenny to show a back-door access to the population’s implants that only one man knows about. And he uses it to no good end. Because I’m mean like that. I like to make my characters suffer.

So, while I do kill Jenny, I didn’t kill her out of the book. Instead, I found a great way to use her. Had I gotten rid of her, I might not have come up with that fab idea about the back-access. Even writing about it here, it has me grinning from ear-to-ear.

I have yet another first with this book: It’s the first time I have no clue what its finished title will be … its working title is Exxon 1. This is a post apocalyptic novel. Usually, by this late stage, I know exactly what I want to call it. Maybe once I have the permanent ending written instead of the place-holder idea I’ve mapped out for now. Perhaps its working title will stay … who knows?

What about you? Do you edit as you go? Or do you leave that for revision? What works for you? What doesn’t? Let me know in the comments below.


Harmony Kent

© 2019, Harmony Kent – All Rights Reserved

46 thoughts on “Careful Who You Kill

  1. I prefer to wait until I’ve finished and doing revision before I start editing my story. Like you said, it allows the writer to be creative. Sometimes, though, as I’m writing a story the very first time, I’ll start being critical about what I’ve done, thinking “the readers will hate me for this, I better take it out now” or I simply come up with a better way and change what I’ve written before continuing on writing the first draft.

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  2. I only edit blatant errors as I go. I leave the major revising/editing for the end. I, too, had a situation like you, where my pre-planning had me killing a character, Mel, in book one. She ended up being an integral part of all five books! I’m quite happy I didn’t kill her off. lol!

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  3. A great post, Harmony. I have only written one full length book and one novella so I can’t really comment. I did edit these as I went along from the point of view that if something changed down the line, I would go back and change the earlier parts.

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  4. Hi, Harmony! I write a loose outline and then write my first draft from beginning to end without editing until I’m done. It wasn’t always like this but I learned early on that I have a much better outcome doing it this way. I usually have a working title but I don’t make my final decision on the book’s title until I’m done with the first draft. Great article! 😀 xo

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  5. Pingback: Author Inspiration and This Week’s Writing Links – Staci Troilo

  6. Love this post, Harmony. I edit as I go. I’ve tried so many times to write and allow my muse free passage without editing, and i’ve failed every time. Old habits die hard. I’ve decided to write a regular short story (not intended for publication) and force myself to write the first draft unedited. Maybe this old dog can still learn a few tricks. If nothing else it’ll make for an interesting experiment. 😊

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  7. Oh, Harmony, it is SO hard not to edit as I go. But, as you explained here, the times I have been able to put that aside and just write, have produced much more emotionally driven stories. Thank you for sharing!

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  8. Some might say I never edit. (Ha ha) I wait until the end for the very example you gave. I think the subconscious plotter throws out ideas as one goes along then, in the end, all comes together. I don’t think I would like to kill too many ideas up front just because I didn’t recognize how good they were right then.

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  9. I’m one of those who edit as I go….but I don’t plot like I should, so it’s a mash up of things. I’m like Staci in that I simply CAN’T move forward until I fix whatever the problem is, or fit in the missing piece, etc. I can get hung up on the smallest detail, but I have to address it in the moment, not later in the edit.

    Sounds like Jenny worked out very well for you, as did allowing your muse to run wild! 😀

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  10. I always edit as I go. I don’t know how not to. If something isn’t the way I want it, I can’t move on. And if I get to a point where I know I need to add something earlier, I can’t just leave myself a note and do it later. I HAVE to do it right then. I appreciate and partially envy people who can just plow through then do the tidying later, but I fear that will never be me. I am, however, super happy it worked out for you.

    As for your working title, X’s are hot right now. Unless you think of the perfect alternative, I’d go with it.

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  11. I try not to edit as I go. It slows me down and I start questioning everything I do. But, I will work on the beginning until I know what direction to go. It’s great when an idea works into a later plot twist. As for titles sonetimes they cone really easy snd other times I have to finish the story to get one. Each story seems to have its own personality.

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  12. I switch off my editing brain too whilst I’m writing my first drafts, otherwise I’d never finish anything. This is also why I handwrite my novels all the way through before typing anything up. It’s rather difficult to edit when there’s no delete button to work with…

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  13. I edit as I go. I always rewrite whatever I wrote the day before, before I start work on new stuff. I love to do rewrites for big things to add scenes or make the scenes stronger, but I’m not patient enough to go through the book too many times, and I find I don’t have to if I catch things before I write The End.

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  14. I’m like a pan full of popcorn. I read my previous chapter before starting every day to both tune it up, and get back into the story. This allows for some grammar and punctuation, but I still miss plenty. I’ve also been known to back up five chapters and add a bit of detail, or plant something that needs to payoff later in the book. I’m not doing actual content editing though.

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  15. I edit as I go. With my first book, other than spelling and punctuation, I didn’t. It was such a mess that I put it aside for more than a year before I began to tackle the edits. However, I wanted to get it written, so I guess I don’t regret doing that.

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    • That sounds like a nightmare, Joan. I suppose what stopped a hot mess this time was brief outline planning for each scene. Those loose frameworks gave my muse both leeway and guide rails to stay within. I’ve only ever fully planned out one novel and I hated the process. That book is still on my hard drive waiting for me to go back to. I guess after a heavy planning and then writing (and editing as I went) I’d had enough of it by the time it was finished, lol. So I can understand it taking you so long to get around to tackling yours. Thanks, Joan 🙂

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  16. Thank you for an interesting piece. You do realise that ‘everyone’ who buys your book, will be avidly trying to find errors, don ‘t you?! To actually write a whole book and not have to edit it, is quite something. You must be a genius.

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    • It does need editing and revising, Joy. Just not while I write it. I shelve it for about a month and then go back in with fresh eyes. I would never recommend anyone publish an unedited/unrevised novel. Thanks for stopping by.


  17. I’ve had a few characters do that to me. Typically, I don’t edit as I go beyond spelling and grammar. Since I make semi-detailed outlines, I have my plan ready to go once I sit down. That takes the need for storyline editing out until after the first draft. So, the sudden appearance of a character usually happens during the planning stage or shows that I had a gap I was previously unaware of.

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  18. I try not to edit as I go, as I have found this usually slows down the story too much. Most authors want to wear both writer and editor hats at the same time, but they are two very different jobs and should be done separately. Your book will thank you for it!

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