Editing Is Important

I read this on the NaNoWriMo forums today, and I’m reasonably certain it was sincere.

 I never rewrite things, I don’t do multiple drafts, I really don’t even do much editing. What I pound out the first time is almost always the best. In school I would always do things backwards. I’d write the final draft first, then fill out the outline, and put in a bunch of mistakes for the “first draft” to turn in.

Talk about a downer for your Wednesday.  This is one of the greatest fallacies of a writer I’ve ever run across, and one I’m ashamed to admit I’ve believed in the past: that the first draft is good enough, that we need not revise or edit.

Yeah, no.  The first draft is for ideas.  For many people, it’s for exploring what the heck to write about in the first place.  Writing is  hard, hard work, and good writing — with good editing — even more so.  I’ve never heard an author come back and say, after the fact, “Finishing that book was the easiest thing I’ve ever done.”  More often than not, I hear war stories about slavishly writing and revising.

But don’t just take my word for it!

Ernest Hemmingway himself said, “The first draft of anything is [crap].”  I can only assume that I need to do a little work in revision if even Hemmingway wrote bad first drafts.  Anne Lamott believes that first drafts are for getting the words out.  Two popular writers and a popular web comic artist agree that revision is a necessary piece of becoming a published author.

Even Dr. Seuss believed in the power of revision.

“So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.”