Editing versus creating

I had to take a second literary pause from ♥My Book♥ because the publisher of my Christmas novella wanted pre-edits. 

The pre-edits took three or four days. The first day, I was able to write my thousand words for the day anyhow, but I didn’t make very much progress on the novella. After that, I spent a morning fiddling with edits on ♥My Book♥ as opposed to actually writing it, and then I went full-tilt on the novella.

The Boys Upstairs is now fully pre-edited and has been passed along to the editorial staff at Lilley Press. Meaning I can get back to writing the novel.

Except that this afternoon, when I could, I had no energy to write the book. No reason why:  it was just as if I put a bucket into the well and it came up empty.

I shouldn’t be surprised: writing and editing use different parts of the brain.You can actually see that in how the second day I went to the novel and edited parts of it rather than writing. And, you ask, why?

Creating involves your imagination. More importantly, creating involves shedding the limits on your perception. Whereas editing involves imposing limits.

The first creation story in Genesis shows God as an editor: he separates the light from the darkness, separates the upper water from  the lower water, puts the birds in the sky and the fish in the sea, and so on. It’s as if he’s tidying up the place. The “formless void” in the first sentence of Genesis seems to have been written in sentence zero. Maybe that’s how writers work it too: we spill out our creation in a formless gush and then we sit around for hours afterward, shaping it.

I’ll set my brain loose tonight and inhabit the scene I know comes next, forming the dialogue and rehearsing the little tensions. I’ll play with the restaurant it takes place in, the things the characters choose to eat, the interplay, the minor annoyances, the sense of plunging forward. It’ll come back, and I’ll get to spend time with Josh and Joey again.

I’ll spill out my formless creation and gush with the wonder. But not right now. Tomorrow, tomorrow.


  1. Deb

    I find your analysis of the writing process fascinating. Thank you for sharing it with us. My problem is I want to edit as I write, and I get bogged down…

  2. philangelus

    That problem is nearly universal! It’s the impetus behind NaNoWriMo, where you have to write 50,000 words in a month — meaning the time pressure is such that you *can’t* edit and therefore have to turn off the editor and just write.

  3. Deb

    I’m glad to know it’s not just me. I had 50,000 words on my first draft, and was writing really quickly, and my hard drive crashed so I lost it all. I haven’t really been able to get back into it (she sighs, feeling sorry for herself). I’ll get it back, though!

  4. Pam

    I am really enjoying your writng advice. I recently purchased the book, Writing Down The Bones,andhave been trying the non-stop writing approach, and just letting the words flow. Of course, I am not trying to write a novel, but the same strategies apply. Just let the words flow,a nd go back to it later. I am glad I found this.