Tuesday, February 26

Chuck Wendig Says That Editing Is Writing

My title comes from Chuck Wendig's latest post. He writes:
Let’s get something out of the way:

Editing is writing.
This--his way of drilling down to the core of relevant writing issues--is one reason I've been increasingly eager to read Chuck Wendig's posts.

Believe it or not, there is some disagreement about the point. Some reasonable, smart, experienced, articulate writers would insist that, to the contrary, editing is most emphatically NOT writing.

The Problem With Saying Editing Is Not Writing

For me, here's the problem with denying that editing is writing: I'm a writer, but I spend most of my time editing because I write fast drafts.

Here's how I write a first draft: for two or three (glorious!) weeks I'll say goodbye to the collective illusion we call the real world and climb through a rabbit hole--or slink into a closet, or creep inside (what looks like) a phone booth, or ...--into a world it's up to me to create.

This is the part of writing I can't wait to get to. Writing a fast draft helps me stretch my creative muscles in a way I rarely get to otherwise. Of course, by the end, I can't wait to get to the editing!

The upshot is that I spend the overwhelming majority of my time editing that first draft (and editing, and editing, and ...).

Yes, I insert new scenes here and there, and I cut others, but I think of that as editing not writing. I can't say, "I'll write at least 1,000 words today" because I write as much as I need to and it varies day to day.

But perhaps that's wrong. Perhaps editing is writing and writing is editing.

Chuck Wending writes:
At the end of the day, the actual execution of your editing process is writing. It’s you doing surgery and excising all the unsightly tumors from your work and filling in the gurgling wounds with better material: healthy flesh, new organs ... Sometimes it’s as simple as killing commas and adding periods. Other times it’s as complicated as dynamiting the blubbery beached whale that is your entire third act, picking up all the viscera, and filling in the hole with clean, pristine sand. Sometimes it’s a leeeetle-teeny-toonsy bit of writing. Sometimes it’s a thousand rust-pitted cauldrons of writing.

Writing is editing. Editing is writing.

Writing is rewriting. And rewriting. And rewriting.
I would encourage you to read the rest of Chuck Wendig's article, though I should note it contains mature language.

By the way, all quotations are from Chuck Wendig's post February 26, 2013 post unless otherwise noted.

What do you think? Is editing writing?

Other articles you might like:

- Looking At Plot: Urban Myths And What They Teach Us
- Write A Novel In A Year, Chuck Wendig's Plan: The Big 350
- The Importance Of Finding Your Own Voice

Photo credit: "la nebbia di settembre" by francesco sgroi under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.


  1. Let me part the waters with my usual flawless logic, lol. ^^
    I think we should differentiate between editing and revising. Lets agree that the former is about spotting typos, and the latter is about making better the narration with more details, with better expressions, descriptions, the dialog with better meaning and lines, and making sure there are no plot inconsistencies etc.
    That being said, doing revisions is a lot of fun when you already have ideas in your head. You can correct the grammar and punctuation by revising, but it's not the same as doing an actual edit. In order to not miss any errors, one would need to read very slowly without losing himself/herself into the actual story.
    You can't decorate the dress and make the dress at the same time. Editing and revising are distinct processes. But at the end of the day, such a debate "Is editing writing?" is a matter of semantics. And if there is no common ground vis-a-vis terminology, then the argument will persist without it being an argument of substance, but of form.

    1. "That being said, doing revisions is a lot of fun ..."

      Serban, I SO wish I was you!

      "And if there is no common ground vis-a-vis terminology, then the argument will persist without it being an argument of substance, but of form."

      Agreed. Your comments about terminology are right on target, but, taking a step back, I find embracing editing as writing acknowledges that significant--yet unpredictable--amounts of writing occur during the revision process. But, yes, as always, you raise a good point.

  2. I really enjoyed your post. It helped to look at editing at a whole different light. Thank you, God bless you.

    Glenda Parker

    1. Glenda, you made my day! I'm so glad you got something from my blog. :-)

  3. I don't understand how to reconcile this with his admonition to "be prolific".

    1. Did you want to say more about that Rick? I don't see the problem.

    2. I was going to spare you the rant. Haha :)

    3. Ah! Very considerate of you. ;)


Because of the number of bots leaving spam I had to prevent anonymous posting. My apologies. I do appreciate each and every comment.