Why “Writing” a Book Should Be Called “Editing” a Book

I’ve taken a step back to look at my writing process for Grigory’s Gadget and made a realization: most of the process was not, in fact, pure unadulterated “writing”. Most of the process was editing.

I wrote the first draft of Grigory’s Gadget in 30 days, in November 2010 as my National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) story. I then determined I hated-HATED-it, and didn’t touch it again for 4 years. In November 2014, I overhauled the story into a second draft in another 30 days (NaNoWriMo again).

Depending on how you slice it, that’s between 1 to 2 months of pure, unadulterated writing. The second month is less unadulterated, however, since I was using the first draft as a guide for the second.

In January 2015, I started editing my draft. I edited from January through June 2015 (six months), then sent my manuscript to beta readers for feedback. I received that feedback in late September, and edited again through mid-November (two months). I then sent my manuscript to my professional editor. After receiving that feedback, I’ll finalize my manuscript over the course of approximately one month before moving onto interior and cover design. That’s a total editing time of nine months.

In total, that means I spent approximately 15% of my “writing” time actually writing, and 85% of my time editing.

This is a point I want to highlight, not to scare anyone away from writing, but to actually boost any fellow writers’ confidence. I think we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to have an amazing, marvelous story from the start. Then we start to find plot holes, inconsistent characters, weak sentences, etc. and we start to doubt ourselves. But that first draft, that rough draft, is not the end product. Through editing, we’re able to reacquaint ourselves with our characters, further explore our world, and polish our story into something great.

I think it’s perfectly normal, even expected, for a writer to hate their story with a burning passion at least once during the writing/editing process. We’re often our own worst critics, but we can use that energy to look at our writing objectively, and to improve upon it.


6 thoughts on “Why “Writing” a Book Should Be Called “Editing” a Book

  1. Thank you so much for this! I’m editing a book right now, and I’ve been experiencing those feelings of self-doubt a lot. Glad to know it will actually get better (hopefully!)


  2. I have to fight the urge to go back and start re-working things rather than writing new material. I find myself editing a lot as I write! It is good to to have a reminder that the process is ongoing, and I just need to finish those last 20,000 words (dammit!).


    1. I know that struggle! If it weren’t for National Novel Writing Month, I don’t think I would have ever finished my manuscript. I ALWAYS am compelled to go back and edit before the first draft is done XD


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