Wednesday, September 16, 2020

When Should We Start Editing?

by Katy Kauffman @KatyKauffman28

I can’t turn off my internal editor. Thoughts like these often zip through my mind:
  • Those praise music lyrics are missing punctuation. (Does that drive you crazy, too?)
  • I’m writing compound sentences in my e-mails without commas. (And feeling guilty about it.)
  • I can’t send this text until it’s perfect. (Half the time I’m missing something.)
My internal editor is always on. Posting on Facebook takes five extra minutes because I’m worried I have a typo, and my voice-to-text feature frustrates me because it doesn’t capitalize properly. Doesn’t it know you have to capitalize book titles?

Is your internal editor always on, too? We try to write, and bam! Our internal editor sounds the alarm. Typo. Run-on sentence. Incomplete thought. Sometimes we want our writing to be so perfect in the first draft that the first draft is never finished or we hesitate to even start. Know what I mean?


So here’s the question—should we wait to edit until the first draft is done, or should we edit as we go along? I think that every professional writer would say, “Write your first draft to get your thoughts on paper. Don’t let editing hold you back. Then go back and edit.” I’ve said that, too. But I rarely practice it.


A Combination That Works for Me


I’d like to share with you my writing process. See what you think of the steps below, and please know that my first drafts hardly ever stay the way that they pop out. But the following process (for devotional and Bible study writing) satisfies the demands of my internal editor and helps me to make progress. Each paragraph is first written from a feeling of inspiration and enough knowledge or research of my topic, and then the editing kicks in.


5 Step Editing Process

  • Step 1: Write the first paragraph. This is usually the beginning of the story that I’m using for the lead-in. 
  • Step 2: Read the first paragraph, tweak anything that’s obviously wrong, and write the second paragraph.
  • Step 3: Read the first two paragraphs, tweak obvious things, and write the third paragraph. I keep reading everything I’ve written so far, tweaking small things as I go, and continue writing until that article or section is done. 
  • Step 4: Read the whole thing, and see if the flow of thought travels in a straight line and each paragraph is needed and written well. At this point, I take out sentences, rearrange their order in the paragraphs, or delete whole paragraphs.
  • Step 5: Read the whole thing again, adjust what’s necessary, and give a copy to my critique buddy for an objective opinion. At this point, I discover whether the first draft is a winner or if it needs a rewrite. 


Our desire for excellent writing should never hold us back from trying. We can use that drive to supply excellent work to editors, agents, magazines, and our own blogs. Writing is a balance of art and rules. We write from inspiration, crafting stories and messages that are painted on paper. For those works of art to be the most appealing, we follow the rules of the craft. So as you write, yes, editing is necessary. But it doesn’t have to hinder the beauty that will flow from your pen or computer. 


What process do you use to write and edit? Share your thoughts below, and join the conversation! 


When Should We Start Editing? - @KatyKauffman28 on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)


Katy Kauffman is an award-winning author, an editor of Refresh Bible Study Magazine, and a co-founder of Lighthouse Bible Studies. She loves connecting with writers and working alongside them in compilations, such as Feed Your Soul with the Word of God, Collection 1 which is a 2020 Selah Awards finalist. She recently started The Lighthouse Connection, a monthly writers’ newsletter including writing tips, inspiration to write, and news of submission opportunities. 

In addition to online magazines, Katy’s writing can be found at,, and three blogs on writing. She loves to spend time with family and friends, take acrylic painting classes online, and do yard work in the morning sun. Connect with her at her blog, Winning the Victory, and on Facebook and Twitter


  1. Katy, I was encouraged to see that you write the way I do. As an English teacher, I just can't leave a paragraph to flounder while I leap to another. That being said, thanks for this post.

    1. Thank you, Roberta! It's comforting to find people of the same editing "tribe."

  2. Will definitely give your process a try Ms. Katy. I'm one of those who has to stop and edit glaring mistakes as I'm typing. Just notice how my Backspace key is worn much more than my Enter key. LOL Like you, I give it several read-throughs, but I also give it a listen. I'm not sure why, but I find wording mistakes, etc. aurally more than I do visually. God's blessings ma'am.

    1. Reading our writing out loud is a needed practice! One I probably need to do more often. Thanks, J.D.!

  3. Katy, reading your bullet points at the beginning of this post gave me anxiety. All those things! As a retired English teacher and ACT coach, the difference between ACT rules and publishing rules makes my brain a little crazy, too (like the comma before “too” in my previous sentence - which is required for the ACT but not publishing). Breaking ACT rules makes me feel like a criminal. LOL

    1. Hello, Karen, I have a hard time breaking the rules too. I smiled at what you said about the bullet points. I can't escape the inner editor!

  4. Thank you for these tips. A writer is always learning. :-)

  5. Like you, the "don't edit until after the first draft" gives me an existential crisis. Can't do it. Can't NOT edit. I absolutely practice your "first paragraph, edit, second paragraph with first paragraph, edit" system. Yes, it takes longer. But it keeps the whole work tied together. It prevents massive rewrites once the manuscript is written. So I believe, and so I write. Thanks for the validation!

    1. I'm glad you felt validated with this post. Thanks for sharing what you did. I feel better about a first draft with this method, even if a lot of it changes later. I feel more secure at least. :)