I have already written a post explaining that the writing phase is no time to edit your story. While you are writing your sole goal is to get as many words on the page as humanly possible. Once you finish however the editing begins, right?
This might surprise you, but I disagree.
You might be thinking “If I am not allowed to edit while I write my draft and I am not allowed to edit when I finish my draft when the hell am I supposed to edit my draft?”
You should edit after you write your draft. The thing is I don’t believe you should start editing the second you finish your book. I would argue it is much more productive to edit after taking time off from your novel.
How Much Time Should You Take Before You Edit Your Story
For starters, I said story and not novel in the title for a reason. This is because I believe this tip works for stories of all sizes, not just full-fledged novels.
I believe the minimum amount of time you should let your story sit before you edit it is a month. Ideally, you would give it two months, but I can understand why that can seem like a bit too long. Before you roll your eyes at the idea of letting your story sit unedited for a month or two, let me elaborate on my reasoning.
I realize that the second you finish your story you want to take a deep breath and get right into editing it, but this is not optimal. The reason for this is when you finish writing your story is still fresh in your head. When it comes to editing this is the last thing you want.
The reason you do not want to come in with the story fresh in your head is you will not be open to changes. You will be too attached to what you just wrote. You will also have a hard time noticing mistakes since you will remember what you meant to write in many cases.
On the other hand, when you take a month or two off before you return to the project you will be viewing it with fresh eyes. If you have ever taken a break from writing before returning to a project that feels unfamiliar you will understand this. While writing a draft this feeling is bad, but when you are editing it is a great thing.
When you come in with less connection to your writing you can edit it more properly. With fresh eyes, you will see more mistakes and be more open to changes than you would have been a month or two ago. This is the ideal mindset you should go into editing your book.
For writers who are too critical of their work, this time off may also be good to separate them from their unrealistic expectations for themselves. When people are too critical of themselves straight after finishing a draft they may be tempted to rewrite every sentence. This time off may help you realize your draft was better than you first thought.
It is never possible to look at your book objectively. You will always have connections to it. That is why writers need editors. That being said, taking a month or two will enable you to edit your book as objectively as you can. When it comes to essential editing.
What Should You Do While You Wait to Edit
Just because I said to take some time before you edit does not mean you have to take a two-month break from writing. I feel guilty if I go a month without writing. I am sure some of you can relate.
The thing about this method is it works best when you take your mind off what you just wrote. The way I like to do this is by working on another WIP while I wait to edit the first one. This might even give you a good deadline to finish your work in progress before going back to edit.
You can also work on some shorter fiction or even work to build your writing platform. After all, being an author is about a lot more than simply being a good writer. You also need to work to market yourself.
Doing one of these things is a great way to get your mind off the draft you just wrote and onto another project. That way, when you return to edit your draft feels fresh to your eyes.
If you are feeling too worried about mixing projects (I do not consider this to be WIP hopping) or you are worried you are feeling worn out you can choose to take a break with this time. However, it is more beneficial for your editing to work on another project in the meantime.
It can be tempting to jump back into editing right away. I know once you finish a draft you are super excited to start polishing your story so that you can work towards publishing. However, it is better to wait.
When you come into the editing process with a fresh head you can make more objective decisions. This is the ideal mindset to go into editing with.
Editing a story can be just as tough if not tougher than writing it. Letting your novel sit for some time gives you the time you need to prepare to edit it properly.