Skip to main content

When Should Writers Edit Their Work?

When should writers edit their work? As they write? Afterward? And should they put a lot of effort into it before submitting it? We dive into these questions here.

When should writers edit their work? As they write? Afterward? And should they put a lot of effort into it before submitting it? We dive into these questions here.

Image placeholder title

Disclaimer: I'm a writer. I know what it feels like when someone tells me what writers should or should not do. As such, take my advice as suggestions—backed up by years of experience. If your method works for you, then use your method. But this is what works for me and others I know when it comes to self-editing.

(12 Popular Grammar Questions and Answers.)

There are a few ways to look at the question of when writers should consider editing their work. First, should they do it before submitting for publication? Then, should they do it during the writing process? I feel the answers are similar regardless of writing genre.

So whether you're a poet, novelist, blogger, or journalist, let's break this down one piece at a time.

Every writer knows that the journey to publication is a long and hard road. Once you finish your first draft, it's time to start the arduous process of self-editing and revision. When you take this online writing workshop, you will learn the methods of self-editing for fiction writers to ensure your writing is free of grammatical errors.

Image placeholder title

Click to continue.

Should Writers Edit Their Work Before Submitting?

The easy answer for this question is yes. Agents and editors expect pitches, proposals, manuscripts, and other submission materials to be as polished and professional as possible. This doesn't mean an agent or editor won't suggest more edits after acceptance, but the most professional writers usually require the least edits. And all writers should try to be professional.

Should Writers Edit During the Writing Process?

The answer to this question is a little trickier, especially when I consider the editing and revision process part of the writing process. And as a poet who has edited poems during live readings before, I don't think the writing process is ever completely over.

That said, I often advise writers to focus on finishing their first draft before putting in too much time on the revision or editing process. The reason for this is simple: Momentum.

(The 7 Deadly Sins of Editors—According to Novelists.)

I've seen many writers struggle to finish the first draft, because they get distracted fixing this problem or that scene. But I know a secret: No matter how perfect your first draft, there is going to be room for editing and revision in the second draft. So focus on finishing that first draft and then jump into the recreation process.

When Should Writers Edit Their Work? Final Thoughts.

If I notice a typo in the first paragraph while typing up the second, then yes, I'll fix it. But if I notice a structural concern crop up when I'm in the middle of an article or poem, I'll go ahead and finish that first draft. Because I've found it's a lot easier to revise a complete first draft than to fix up half a draft and then try to rekindle the spark that started the story or poem in the first place.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: A New Podcast Episode, "Your Story" Prompt, and More!

This week, we're excited to announce our latest episode of "Writer's Digest Presents," the new "Your Story" prompt, and more!

Writer's Digest Best Live Streams, Podcasts, and YouTube Channels 2022

Writer's Digest Best Live Streams, Podcasts, and YouTube Channels 2022

Here are the top live streams, podcasts, and YouTube channels as identified in the 24th Annual 101 Best Websites from the May/June 2022 issue of Writer's Digest.

What Is Fan Fiction in Writing?

What Is Fan Fiction in Writing?

You might have heard the term, especially if you’re in online fandoms, but what exactly is fan fiction? Managing Editor Moriah Richard explains.

5 Ways To Use Short Stories To Grow as a Writer

5 Ways To Use Short Stories To Grow as a Writer

Short story writing can be a gateway to writing your novel—but they’re also fun and worthy stories in their own right. Here, author Dallas Woodburn shares 5 ways to use short stories to grow as a writer.

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Not Having an Online Presence

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Not Having an Online Presence

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake is not having an online presence.

Shirlene Obuobi: On Writing From Experience

Shirlene Obuobi: On Writing From Experience

Physician, cartoonist, and author Shirlene Obuobi discusses the writerly advice that led to writing her new coming-of-age novel, On Rotation.

WD Poetic Form Challenge

WD Poetic Form Challenge: Kimo Winner

Learn the winner and Top 10 list for the Writer’s Digest Poetic Form Challenge for the kimo.

8 Things Writers Should Know About Tattoos

8 Things Writers Should Know About Tattoos

Tattoos and their artists can reveal interesting details about your characters and offer historical context. Here, author June Gervais shares 8 things writers should know about tattoos.

Tyler Moss | Reporting Through Lens of Social Justice

Writing Through the Lens of Social Justice

WD Editor-at-Large Tyler Moss makes the case for reporting on issues of social justice in freelance writing—no matter the topic in this article from the July/August 2021 issue of Writer's Digest.