Should I Edit as I Go, or Save the Editing for Later?

Who’s excited about the crappy first draft??!!

That’s what we’re shooting for. While a few writers find success through editing along the way and making everything perfect as they go, MOST are better off writing whole chapters or even whole books before going back for revisions.

Some authors use a technique called “fast drafting” in which they get the first draft of the book on the page as quickly as possible. It’s very rough, leaving out much of the detail. The magic happens in the revision stage, which takes much longer.

The key is to experiment and find what works for YOU. If you have perfectionist tendencies, definitely try to hold those at bay or you’ll find they keep you from making forward progress.

What’s YOUR preference? Edit as you go, or save it till later?


If you should decide to invest in some personalized counsel, I offer coaching for unpublished authors here: My Coaching Services


Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. Mason Engel on November 16, 2020 at 2:13 PM

    I break my editing into two categories: story and prose. I used to have a hard rule against both while drafting, but nowadays I let myself edit the story as I go.

    I often get to the half or 3/4 point of a book and realize I need a whole new throughline or subplot to make the larger story work. If I don’t let myself go back and edit some of the story, I have to continue drafting with the assumption that the subplots I need already exist. That can work, but it’s impossible to know how exactly those assumed insertions will play out until you implement them. Continuing in my draft typically results in a very muddled climax, which ends up taking more time to correct than if I had just paused in my drafting and gone back to the root.

    Then again, I’ve also gotten to a certain point in a book and *thought* I needed to implement a change earlier on, kept going, then realized the change didn’t need to be made after all. So who knows?

  2. Scot on November 13, 2020 at 12:18 PM

    I rarely edit as I go. If I do, it’s because something I’ve just written means I need to adjust a line or so from earlier in the scene. Anything more than that and I’ll leave a comment like “Introduce xxx here” or “Revise to mention xxx” and keep on moving. Not because I think editing as you go is “bad,” but because I’ll tinker forever and never make any progress.

    (Case in point: The ridiculous number of times I edited this comment.)

  3. Botanist on November 11, 2020 at 9:19 AM

    I edit as I go, not to perfection, but I often find it’s a way to settle my mind back into the story world at the start of a writing session. I’m so glad you advocate finding out what works for you. Far too many people take a very blunt “editing BAD” attitude and try to tell you you’re doing it all wrong. That is nonsense, of course. The goal is to get that draft onto the page. How you get there is nobody’s business but your own.