When Writing Fiction, Edit Your Work Without Mercy

I hate reading what I’ve written, even if it’s an email, because I know what I meant to say and as I read, my mind is seeing what I want and not always what I wrote.  For me, editing for grammar and spelling is a weak point. However, some people are great at this aspect of reviewing but might miss entirely the need to improve the content of their fiction, so this is where other readers, or even a professional editor, can be so very important.

Yet, writing fiction requires a lot of work in seclusion or behind a closed door as some writers like to say.  This also requires you to review and edit your own work a lot of the time. It’s in this rewriting that you polish your story and make it flow, coherent, and meaningful but to do this you have to look at your work without mercy.

When we’re honest with ourselves we can be our greatest supporter but our best critic. We, obviously, know ourselves better than anyone so we know what we want to say in our fiction.  It is important, though, to make sure we aren’t looking at our finished story with rose-colored glasses and are able to step back to see what we’re actually written.

It’s often recommended that you take some time, weeks or months, to not think about or read your work and that’s not bad advice.  It’s just as important to take the advice of one of my college professors when he said, “Remember, you’re not putting divinely inspired words from God down on the page.”  Humility, criticism, and honesty are the only things that can help you when writing a story or editing what you’ve written so take a step back from your work.

Reading good (and bad) fiction is also going to be helpful because you will learn to realize what’s good writing and what’s just terrible prose, and you’ll ideally be able to see that in your own work.  However, it’s important to have to courage to say you’re not going to produce a perfect (or even good) draft on the first go-around because writing fiction isn’t about getting the story on paper, it’s about editing and cleaning up what you have.  Writing is rewriting.