Write Short, Edit Long / Write Long, Edit Short

Hey, SE Readers. Joan here today with a subject near and dear to our hearts. Writing. Okay, little joke there. If you weren’t interested in writing, you wouldn’t be reading this blog.

We all know editing is a must when it comes to writing. First drafts suck. And we all want to make our stories the best they can be. However, editing isn’t always easy and maybe not the most enjoyable part of writing. Allow me to share a personal experience.

I recently began what I thought would be an easy project. For some time, I wanted to publish a collection of short stories. I had several in my archives. Some were finished, a few I had posted on my blog years earlier, and others were incomplete.

Each story had something in common—the need of serious editing.

I decided on a minimum word count of 2,000 words per story. The first one I tackled was initially around 350 words. It was virtually all telling—just an idea I had as a prequel to a longer novel.

No problem. What could be difficult about adding 1700 words?

It was harder than I ever imagined. After much frustration, but feeling pretty good about the revised story, I sent the draft my awesome critique partners. It came in at just over 1900 words.

I received positive feedback and some excellent suggestions. (By the way, if you don’t have critique partners or a critique group, I highly recommend it.) Once again, I took the draft, rewrote, revised, cut some words, and added more words.

I scolded myself more than once for even attempting to undertake such a project. For a while, I was tempted to scrap the entire idea. After all, this was the first of several stories in need of revision.

But I persevered and finally completed the second draft. The story is just over 3100 words—way more than I anticipated.

By contrast, the initial draft of my first novel was somewhere around 88,000 words. I had set a goal of 90K, but I knew to reach that I would only be adding fluff to the story.

I will say, the first draft was a convoluted mess—so much so that I put it aside a year before I would dare think of editing.

You’ve heard the phrase, “Kill your darlings?” I had to kill a lot of them, and it was painful. I deleted paragraphs, scenes, even a chapter or two. When I got through with the first edit, the book stood at 78K words.

However, I also had a lot of telling instead of showing. Since showing takes more words, I added to the word count on the second revision. The published book was just over 86K.

Should you write short and edit long or write long and edit short? Is there a right or wrong way? I think it’s up to the writer. Some find the first method easier, while others feel it’s best to cut words. The important thing is to edit.

Which to do you find harder? To write long and edit short or write short and edit long? Share in the comments.

30 thoughts on “Write Short, Edit Long / Write Long, Edit Short

  1. I write novels so it’s hard for me to pen a short story. I have written short stories but whenever I do I find ways of turning them into novels. 🙂

    But when it comes to editing I’m surprised how much I enjoy it. I see the story much better when editing. Everything comes alive allowing me to delete or expand. When I started this I figured editing would be right up there with high-school homework. Thankfully that’s not the case. By the way, excellent post. Thanks for sharing this with us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bryan, I’ve come to enjoy editing. It’s a chance to polish my work and make it shine. I may go through four or five edits, depending on the specific content. I agree it’s harder to write short stories. Much easier to write an 80-100k word novel. Thanks for stopping by and I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I am a long story writer. I have not ventured into short stories yet. I hope to one day play around with short stories. I think part of the problem is I love long stories. Series are even better. But I’ve been reading more short stories and enjoying them, so I think I might try my hand at it one day. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Short stories are more of a challenge for me, although I have written several as part of collections with other writers. I love writing series books. Finished one earlier this year and have embarked on a new one with a target of publishing the first one in the spring of 2020. A challenge for me is to write a stand-alone novel.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve written two stand alone novels but haven’t published either one. I’m thinking of revisiting one of them and revising it since my current WIP has stalled a bit. Still, I’m more of a series writer as well. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Stand-alone is challenge for me It’s hard for me to not fall in love with my secondary characters and give them their own book. 🙂 Sounds like we’re a bit alike in regard to series writing.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. It is truly a personal preference. The end goal is the same – a tight “showing” story! I tend to write long and edit short. But that’s just me. Congrats on your NaNo progress, Joan! You and Mae are killing it! I’m straggling behind, but still going. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I always write short then have to fill in and flesh out. It’s just the way my brain works. And I agree with Mae, it’s harder for me to fix an old manuscript than to write a new one. Yay to you for all the work you’ve put in!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I agree. It’s harder to add. And since I wrote this post, I plan to add even more words to that short story. Oh, the angst of it all! But I don’t add words just for the sake of length. I’m of the mind a story/novel needs to be as long as it needs to be to tell the story. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Hmm. I never really thought about it. I tend to edit as I go. I think I probably write long and edit short as I’m always looking for ways to tighten.

    I’m also working on a short story anthology, and those old tales I wrote decades ago needed a ton of work to get them into shape. I’m still hoping to release the collection in March with a short tale prior to that. I sometimes think it’s harder to clean up an old work than tackle a new one.

    Good for you for sticking with your story!

    Liked by 2 people

    • After I wrote this post, I’ve decided to add even more to one story and publish it as a stand-alone. It’s a prequel to the new novel. I like to write tight, but my NaNo project is going to take lots of work!

      Liked by 1 person

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