Write Everything Perfectly from the Start, or Heavily Edit Later?

By Nicholas Klacsanzky

tumblr_inline_n1otfvjf131qfuyycOne of my friends is about to start writing his first novel. He has already been through the period of doubts (like, “I am not a writer, I am an office worker—can I still write something worthwhile?”) and now is ready to start his story. So, several days ago, he asked me:

– “Oh, by the way, there is something I am not sure about. The story: should I try writing it genuinely from the very beginning?”
– “What do you mean?” I asked.
– “Like, I am not sure I can write everything perfectly, or even well. Most likely, my writing will be crude. Besides, there will most likely be some discrepancies and silly things in my writing. So I wonder: should I try to make my story as good as possible from the start, or should I focus more on describing the storyline, and leave the rest—meaning style, logic, and so on—for editing?”
– “Well,” I said… and stopped talking. Because he asked a tricky question, that’s why.

Come to think of it, my first novel was written awfully. At first, I tried to write as well as I could, but after the third or the fourth chapter, I decided to focus on the storyline and on finishing the first draft. As a result, I spent a huge amount of time editing and rewriting my story, because:

– Since I rushed to complete the main storyline, the novel was full of inconsistencies, controversies, and omissions. Which, of course, I needed to fix in the first place.
– Due to the same reason, the text itself looked horrible. The dialogues made me want to cover my face with both hands and cry; the motives of some characters were unrealistic and forced out. This is not to mention the narration: it was over-explanatory, with long paragraphs of plain descriptions and rumination. I had to rewrite almost every single sentence in my novel.

I started to hate my novel long before I finally finished editing it.

I wrote my next novel considering the mistakes I had made. I did not start writing it relying solely on a general idea in my head; instead, I predicted all the major events that would affect the plot, the smaller events that would determine these major milestones, and then even smaller events that also… well, you got it. I created an approximate plan for each chapter, and made sure there were no logical flaws in the story. Only then did I start writing my first draft.

It was not that good. But, compared to the first novel, it was almost flawless. I had much less work left for editing. Certainly, there were a lot of mistakes, discrepancies, and so on, as well as the style was crude. However, editing was still a much easier and more pleasant thing to do. I almost enjoyed it.

So I guess the formula is simple: the more you plan the details, the less will be left for editing, and on the contrary.

There are cases when your storyline changes all of a sudden: when you planned to write a story one way, but then came across a brilliant idea that changed the whole concept of your novel. In this case, pause and re-plan your story again carefully, step-by-step. Check out what is already written and make sure it connects with the new concept. And only after you do this, you should continue writing.

Re-doing your own work can be much harder than doing it. So, put the most effort in writing!

Good luck.


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