Writing Tips

Young Writers and the Never Ending Editing Cycle

The world needs more young writers– preteens, teenagers, and young adults with passion and purpose that they want to share. But being a young writer comes with unique and difficult problems, and one of the biggest struggles of young writers is never ending editing and revision.

The cycle is quite simple. A teenager writes a longer story– perhaps a novel. As they write, they learn more about writing in school or online, and being young, they learn at an exponential rate, and their writing style changes dramatically in only weeks and months. Once they finish the draft, they read over it, wincing and wanting to apply their new knowledge, and so they decide to revise and edit the draft. If they learned a lot, then perhaps they even need to rewrite the entire thing. The problem is that while they are rewriting, they are still learning and growing, and so once that draft is completed, another needs to be written. Thus the Never Ending Editing Cycle.

I understand. I have rewritten my novel so many times that sometimes I wonder if it will ever be publishing quality much less if I will ever be satisfied with it. One round I fixed my main character so that she was not wooden and actually tolerable. I went through another rewrite when I discovered that I did not just want to tell a fun story but needed to say something important. Now I need to fix my plot so that my readers don’t put my novel down at chapter 6. Is my writing getting better? Most definitely! But will I ever be finished, and will my writing ever be a good representation of what I can actually do?

That is the question we all have, and so I want you to know that other young writers are struggling with this, too.

But now that you know that you are not the only one struggling with constant disappointment and never ending edit, let’s look at our options as young writers. The facts remain: we will grow faster than a draft is written. So let’s break down our choices. It is quite simple: either we can stop editing or keep on editing. And if we stop editing, we can either publish or keep our writing to ourselves.

Young Writers and the Never Ending Editing Cycle

Stop Editing: This is a perfectly valid option– even though you know that the piece is not the best you can do. Do you have other story ideas that better reflect your skill? Do your characters and plot need a complete transformation to reflect your current skills? Is there anything that you absolutely love about the story, or are you simply holding onto it because you are afraid to completely start over? If you are only editing because you don’t have any new story ideas or are afraid of starting over, consider being done with your project and holding onto it as a part of your history as a writer.

Stop Editing and Seek Publication: Perhaps your work is not the best representation of what you can do, but this does not mean that it is not publishing quality. It’s not your masterpiece, but it may be good enough for publishing. It may make you wince, but it might not make others wince. Especially if you are an older teen writer consider this. And if you are still worry about it being good enough, then consider marketing it as middle grade or for younger teens.

Stop Editing and Keep the Writing for Yourself: Maybe you’re sure that your work is not publishing material, or perhaps you are sure that you don’t want to see it published. So keep it for yourself. Progress and old works are sentimental, and so enjoy your imperfect work for yourself. Don’t try to fix it, and simply love the piece as a part of your journey. Maybe in several years, once your writing growth slows down a bit, you can completely rewrite it– but keep the old draft as well.

Keep on Editing: So this may not seem like a solution, but perhaps your problem is simply discouragement and not the multitude of edits. Here’s the thing: I love my story. I love my characters. I love my world. And I am holding out hope that one day, I will finish a round of edits and realize that this is something I can be proud of. This mindset is not unreasonable. One day we will all be mature adults who don’t learn quite as fast, and I love this story enough that I am willing to wait until then. Maybe this means that I won’t be published as a teenager, but I love this story enough that I am fine with that. So do you love your story enough to wait and lose the prize of being published as a teen? If this sounds painful, then don’t wait and force yourself through more and more edits. Write something new and be free of the editing cycle! But if you truly love your story, don’t feel guilty for obsessing over rewrites or give into hopelessness because you can’t imagine your story being finished. Know that one day it will be finished. We just have to wait and keep on editing.

So if you have been edited your story over and over again, ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I afraid of completely starting over with a brand new idea and a blank document?
  • Is this work publishable or could it be sentimental and just for me?
  • Do I love this story enough to wait 5-10 years to publish– all the while editing it over and over again?

All three options to the young writer’s editing dilemma are valid; they just depend on you and your story. So what are you going to do?

God bless,

Gabrielle

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14 thoughts on “Young Writers and the Never Ending Editing Cycle”

  1. Thanks 🙂 this was really encouraging and helpful! I stopped editing when I was about fifteen and just wrote until I found my voice instead. Then at 18 I finally found a story I loved enough to wait and perfect. It’s disappointing not being published (a novel anyway) as a teen but it’s worth it because it meant I found the story I needed to tell and worked at telling it well 🙂

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    1. It sounds like you found your way out of the editing cycle. That sounds like a good call to stop editing for a few years, and I am glad you have a story now that you love enough to perfect. Good luck with it!
      I definitely understand the struggle with wanting to be published as a teen. It took me a long time to realize that it was just my pride speaking, and now– despite being 19 and unpublished– I am much happier as I work on my novels.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is really true. When I was younger, I would just not edit my stuff, but now I’m definately caught in this cycle for my current WIP. I love my story enough to keep making it better, and I do want to publish it eventually, but this is a great reminder of where I’m at. Thank you!

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  3. Do you mind if I ask for advice about this? I’ve been working on a story for about two years now (not long compared with some people, I guess, but a long time for me). About a month ago, I was completely overwhelmed by the amount of editing I still had to do despite having rewritten it twice already, so I decided to take a break to work on a short story instead. Now I am meant to go back and finishing editing my main project, but, out of nowhere, I hate it. I don’t mind thinking or talking about the story and the characters, but actually sitting down and doing anything with it seems impossible. I can’t decide if this is a sign that I need to leave it alone for a bit longer (or forever) or just something I need to get over. Have you ever experienced something like this, or do you know someone who has? Do you have any advice?
    And thanks for the article. It’s great to know I’m not the only one 🙂 .

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    1. Not at all, though take my advise with a grain of salt– I am just another unpublished author.
      So you mentioned that you hated this story. Do you hate the narrative? If so, then I think this might be an indication that you should stop editing and set it aside. If you still like your characters, you might consider using a couple as a basis for new characters in a new story. But if you are generally dreading writing and editing, then you might consider sticking with it. Sometimes after a break from writing, I find it extremely hard to get back into writing, and I hate those documents filled with words.
      So here’s my advice, start a new, big writing project with a completely new plot, though you can use a couple of your old characters if you wish. If, after a while of writing that story, you find that you do actually love your old story, then go back. There is nothing stopping you.
      Hopefully that helps, and good luck with whatever writing you end up doing!

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      1. Thanks!
        The problem is definitely with this project rather than writing in general, because I did quite a lot of work on a shorter project while I was taking a break. It’s the plot that I’m struggling with, as well as some characters. I think what I will probably do is take your advice and start a new project, but just set it in the same world rather than copying over characters.
        Thank you again. It is always helpful to get a second opinion 🙂 .

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  4. Practical and encouraging advice, to be sure, Gabrielle. I’m only in the stage of outlining and I’m starting to feel doubts already, but I’m determined to finish something by the end of this year, or at least move on to the next stage.

    Here’s an interesting article for anyone interested in a Christian fantasy author’s writing process (note that she hates and vows to never read her published work again, until at least some years later, so you’re not the only one, Kikyo):
    http://anneelisabethstengl.blogspot.com/2014/06/writing-process-blog-tour.html

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    1. Thanks! I did not know you were working on something. Next time I e-mail you, maybe you can share a bit 🙂

      Thanks for sharing that article. Her process sounds like how I’d imagine mine will be once I have a couple novels written and finished. The only major difference would be that I have an even more detailed outline, though I will still deviate as needed.

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  5. Really nice post, Gabrielle, thanks! I sometimes struggle trying to decide when to give up on a story, when to keep it for myself and when it pursue publication. If I love my story I am so willing to go through the rigours of editing to make it as good as I possibly can.

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  6. Thanks for this! I definitely agree that it can feel like I’m in a never-ending cycle of editing. I’ve had to file away several past projects, because I needed to move onto a new story that would reflect my current skill as a writer. They will always be in my heart though!
    Wonderful post! ❤

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