Phillip Thompson: Writing vs. Editing

There’s an old saying that it’s easier to edit than it is to write, but I’m not sure I’m all in on that. Especially when you’re writing long form fiction.
A question that comes up often when I’m in a discussion about writing is “Do you edit as you go, or at the end?”
My answer: depends on the writer. I write my first draft longhand, using a pencil and a small notebook. This allows me to get ideas down fast. I just write it out, regardless of whatever errors may exist. And I usually write a chapter at a time. Then I transcribe the handwriting onto my laptop file, and that usually serves as my first edit. And I try to make that my only edit at the time.
I do believe in writing the entire story first, though. There’s time for a thorough edit once you’re done. Going back over the already written portion again and again bogs me down when I need to focus on going forward.
Sure, there are times when I print a section, or all, of the manuscript at some point and give it a read-through because I need to tighten up a timeline, or remember a specific sequence of events, and when I do this I can’t help but edit … a little. But I try to hold off on that until I’ve completed the novel. Once I have, I open up my “working copy” and edit extensively, using “track changes.” Sometimes, because I’m still old-fashioned, I’ll print the whole thing out and mark it up, which allows me to physically spread the book out and take a look at it from a “panoramic” view.
Phillip is the author of Outside the Law, coming February 1st from Brash Books

2 Responses to “Phillip Thompson: Writing vs. Editing”

  1. Noreen Ayres

    I’m going to make a sexist comment and I kind of hate myself for it, but here goes. When I came across Thompson’s phrase “boots biting the rock,” in his DEEP BLOOD, I thought, “A female writer could never write like that.” – OK, let’s say maybe I could. But I’d have to work really, really hard for it and maybe undergo gender realignment.
       So, this is to say I don’t care if Thompson writes on paper and then on a laptop, writes in a coffee shop, or writes in his locked basement when that chatty next-door neighbor comes to visit, he is simply a grand artist. His cogent, economical dialogue is worthy of being taught in writing classes, like E. Leonard.
       Still, of his post on how he writes I also say I’m always interested in how authors work because the methods assure me that however I do it, I have permission.


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