Rules for When to Edit Your Writing

"Should I edit or keep writing?" I hear this question all the time.

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.
Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

“Should I edit as I write?”

“Should I really write a crummy first draft? It feels so raw and uncomfortable.”

“I keep finding myself wordsmithing and then I get so little writing done. Is that okay?”

The short answer is that everyone finds what works for them, and you’ll need to experiment and see what works for you.

Generally, I do encourage emerging authors to write a rough first draft and edit later. There’s a freedom and power to getting it all down and then working with the raw material. However, not always. Here are my…

Rules for When to Edit—and Polish—as You Write

  1. You’re not sure whether what you’re doing is working. If you have doubts about the book—whether your doubts are about the content, tone, structure or something else, it can be important to get feedback early on. Ask someone in your target audience what they like and what doesn’t work for them. Where do they confused or bored? What do they want more of? Ask an open ended question as well, such as, “What other feedback do you have?”
  2. You’re writing a book proposal. Write a rough first draft of your sample chapter(s). Then, rather than writing the whole book, focus on polishing those one or two chapters for the proposal. Your agent or publisher may have changes to the book, so it will save you time not to write the whole thing in case there are dramatic changes in the book concept.
  3. Your gut tells you to polish each chapter before moving on. I’m a big believer in each of us having internal processes that work for us. If it really works for you to fine tune as you go, listen to your intuition. However, check in and see if it’s really your intuition speaking and reassess periodically to make sure your strategy is working.

If none of the three above apply, try writing rough drafts and keep moving. It will give you such momentum and freedom to get it down in draft form and later go back to perfect.

If you are editing, you may enjoy this post with 7 Quick Writing Tips, and this post with additional editing tips for tightening your writing.

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...


Author B. Jeffrey Madoff: “You can make it happen”

by Ben Ari
(Photograph By Bryant Grant; Edits By Lauren K. Clark)

Writing Travel and Painting the Words!

by Lauren Kaye Clark

Author John D. Wood: “Here are 5 things you should do to become a great author”

by Ben Ari

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.


We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.