Writing is a crazy thing. Some days you love it. Some days you hate it.
Besides the crazy love/hate part, writing is a journey… of learning along the way, refining your writing style and improving bit by bit. A few years ago a tip arrived in my inbox that became the single biggest piece of advice I’ve learned as a writer. It’s a tip I had learned before but never put to use with any consistency. It’s a tip that’s simple in philosophy but hard in practice. What is it?
Well, it can be summed up in three words:
Write then edit.
How We Typically Write
You may say, well YEAH, I already do write then edit. ::fist pump::
But do you really? I’m sure you look over your posts before you hit “publish.” But I bet you also edit WHILE you’re writing, whether you noticed or not. Even after years of not doing this, I still fall into the trap at times!
Maybe you spend 15 minutes racking your brain for the perfect word?
Maybe you just stare off into la-la land, not going any further until you find the right words for that one part of your post?
Maybe you say “oh that sentence works better there” or “let me move this over here”?
I’m sure some of your blog posts don’t take as much thought as others. But the posts that are the most important to you are the hardest to write. You want to do your subject justice. You want people to see it as vividly as you do. You want your post to ooze personality. And that’s when that editing thing creeps in and tarnishes your writing.
Why You Should Write Then Edit
I once read that trying to write and edit at the same time is like trying to wash the dishes before you’re done eating dinner. Genius analogy right?
When you write without stopping to change a sentence here or look up a better word there, an amazing thing happens…
You stop second-guessing yourself and JUST WRITE.
Editing while you write interrupts your brain from writing what you really want to say. When you start censoring your thoughts, your writing mojo circles the drain and goes bye bye. (Remember you can edit later all the weird, over-the-top, what-was-I-thinking stuff later.)
When you allow yourself to just write, it stirs up all sorts of wordy goodness. The words that pop to your head that you would have questioned (is it funny enough? thoughtful enough? relevant to my story?) vanish and they come out anyway. Honestly, I find the pieces of my writing I would have questioned the most end up being the strongest parts of my posts.
How to Write Now and Edit Later
It’s okay to jump around
I do this ALL THE TIME. Sometimes, you may know exactly how you’re going to end a post, but no idea how to start it. Sometimes I have no motivation to write so all I can do is write down the facts and then go back and start fleshing each piece out. And sometimes, I bounce back and forth from one part to another like a game of Pong.
Similarly, if you get TOO stuck that jumping around doesn’t help, then step away and come back to it later. I rarely have a chunk of time large enough to write an entire blog post so I do this a lot.
Don’t go overboard
It’s okay to use the backspace if your stroke of genius occurs 5 seconds after you just typed something rather boring. It’s okay to stop and think. And if you misspelled something, I’m not saying to leave it until the editing process (as an official Grammar Bitch, knowing I misspelled something and couldn’t fix it right away would drain all my nerdy grammar mojo). But just remember the overall tip – write then edit. No shuffling paragraphs around or rearranging sentences until you’ve written for a while.
Use placeholders (for now)
Sometimes I know I want to say more about something but I’m not sure what. I’ll do something like [write more here] or [sentence about that]. This lets me continue with the stuff I DO know I want to say before those thoughts escape my brain forever.
I did this A LOT when I wrote Blog Design for Dummies (affiliate link), especially when I realized I needed to do more research. I also did it when I needed a sentence to start or end a paragraph and couldn’t muster it at the moment.
Find your own system
Figure out some tricks that get you used to writing then editing. For me, it’s a timer. I’ll set it for 15 minutes or so and just GO FOR IT. If you really want to torture yourself, try this genius tool called Write or Die 2 by Dr. Wicked. You tell it how many words and how much time you want to write (see underneath main box where it says “Try.”) Then, select the consequence mode and click “Try.” When you slow down, the text box will start changing from white to red and will then start flashing boldly to wake your butt up to KEEP WRITING. It’s hilarious and motivational at the same time.
I use that app as a last resort or when I’m writing something really long and need a kick in the pants!
Something that else really works for me… since I hardly ever have time to write an entire post at once, I’ll write then save it for later. Then I’ll pick back up by editing what I’d previously written and then writing some more. I still keep the process separate but I do it a chunk of writing at a time rather than all at once.
How do you typically write? Do you think you could train yourself to write then edit?
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