Saturday, November 4, 2023

A Writer’s Superpower: The Ability to Time Travel

by Tim Suddeth @TimSuddeth

Have you ever wanted a do-over? You had coffee with a buddy, or your boss called you into his/her office, then an hour later you think, “Wow. Wished I’d said that.”

If only you could get a do-over, or in golfing lingo, a mulligan.

As a writer, you get a chance to use your do-over, or time-travel, on your writing. Thankfully, writing isn’t like speaking when, once you open your mouth, it’s too late to think. Once you say it, it’s out of your hands, uh, mouth.

But in writing, you blurt out the first draft with all those pesky incomplete thoughts, cliches, and typers, uh, typos, that seem to slip in once you think you’re finished. They can drive you crazy. And many hopeful writers get so caught up in making a perfect story that they never finish it.

That’s when you can call on your time-travel superpower. This superpower lets you go back and correct all false starts, formatting errors, and homonyms. It lets you go from a disaster in the kitchen to the perfect red velvet cake. Yum.

3 Ways Writers Time Travel

1. Rewrites or Substantive Edits

So, you’ve finished your first draft, whether it’s a devotion, blog post, essay, or book. Now’s your chance to go back through and find the areas where you can strengthen it. With this edit, we’re looking at the big picture. Tenses, POVs, chronology—are they all consistent? You don’t want to have your main character leaving the office to mail a letter and realize that it’s Sunday. The post office would be closed.

Have you chosen the right main character? Usually, you want the main character to undergo the biggest emotional, psychological, and spiritual changes. Sometimes, while journeying through the story, characters can surprise you.

Are your thoughts clear? In fiction, have you given enough description to help your reader paint a picture? In an essay or article, are your arguments complete and concise? Are you assuming that your reader has knowledge that you haven’t addressed?

Are your facts correct? Was the family traveling in a Model A or a Packard? Was it Elijah or Elisha who saved the widow’s son?

Would the story sound better in first or third person? Is the location and time period, correct? Or should you vary the scenes more?

These edits are where you get the dents and major scratches out of your work.

2. Copyediting

Now we need to clean up your work even more. Put some accessories and redo the interior on your jalopy.

Look for errors in grammar, punctuation, and tense. Some words, like dialogue and dialog, have two correct spellings. And those crazy English people have their own ways to do things. Be sure your resources are for the right audience.

3. Proofreading

After doing the first two edits, I’m ready to throw my soon-to-be bestselling classic against the wall. I’ve read it so many times, I can’t remember what I’ve left in it and what I’ve taken out.

But, fortunately, despite it wearing on my nerves, I get another crack at it. I get to wash and polish my jalopy until it shines.

I need to read through it one last, or two or three, times. I made several edits during the rounds of edits, causing some sentences to be changed multiple times and some words being unintentionally left out.

Now, I get to time travel back to complete the sentences. Verify that my paragraphs are complete, that homonyms or weasel words haven’t crept back in. Also ensure that using find and replace didn’t mess up other words in the writing.

Time Travel Kryptonite

There is one area where, as much as we wish, our time travel superpower just won’t work. I even hate to mention it in front of fearful writers, and we all are. It’s when we come face-to-face with a, gulp, deadline. (Take a breath.)

I know how you feel. Pity parties are the only answers. And schedules. 

Rewriting, editing, or time travel. No matter what you call it, they are powerful and crucial tools for writers. We hear legends of earlier, famous writers who wrote a masterpiece in one sitting.

But how many of us really want to do that? Not after you’ve had that high feeling of having a book, article, or blog post published, to only see a big, fat typo in the first paragraph. Or worse, have a reader point it out.


Tim Suddeth is a stay-at-home dad and butler for his wonderful, adult son with autism. He has written numerous blogs posts, short stories, and three novels waiting for publication. He is a frequent attendee at writers conferences, including the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference and a member of Word Weavers and ACFW. He lives near Greenville, SC where he shares a house with a bossy Shorky and three too-curious Persians. You can find him on Facebook and Twitter, as well as at and


  1. Great article. I've often wished I could have a do-over in life. Now I know why I love writing so much.