Ryan posted this question on my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page:
How long does the editing stage take?
Randy sez: That depends on a lot of things. There tend to be two schools of thought on editing:
- Writing is rewriting. Everything you wrote in the first draft is crap and will need to be completely redone, so ultimately, you will edit the life out of that sucker. No time will be wasted on preparation; writing the first draft will be quick; it will take a long time to edit. Deal with that.
- Writing is writing and editing is polishing. You think it out in advance, then write the book the way you want it on the first draft, then polish it up a bit and away you go. Preparation will take a long time; writing the first draft will go quickly; editing will be over in an eyeblink.
These are, of course, extreme cases, and there are some writers in the middle, but it’s remarkable just how many working authors are near one of the two extremes.
People in the “writing is rewriting” school generally don’t do a lot of planning up front for their novel (although some of them do). Instead, they get the first draft written any way they can, assuming that it’s going to be awful, and then the REAL writing gets rolling with the second draft. Which will still be awful, just not so awful, so the real, REAL writing happens on the third draft. Which will also be pretty bad, but better than #2. This goes on sometimes for 10 or 15 or 20 or 30 drafts. For this school of thought, editing can take a very long time.
People in the “writing is writing” school generally put a lot more planning into their novel. Then they write the first draft and it actually is pretty good. They let it cool off a bit, then read it, then polish it up. And then it’s ready to go. For this school of thought, editing can be incredibly short.
Which of these schools of thought is “better?” I don’t know how to answer that question. After talking with many, many novelists over the years about their creative processes, I’ve concluded that the best way for you to write a novel is whatever works best for you.
Many, many novelists write their first draft by the seat of their pants and then edit the heck out of it.
Many, many other novelists plan their novels carefully, either by writing several detailed outlines or by using my Snowflake method or using some other process.
You can write a good novel either way. You can, in fact, write a GREAT novel either way. Tragically, you can also write a horrifically awful novel either way. There just aren’t any guarantees in life.
Write your novel in whichever ways works best for you and don’t worry whether it takes a long time or a short time.
If you’ve got a question you’d like me to answer in public on this blog, hop on over to my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page and submit your question. I’ll answer them in the order they come in.