Does Self-Editing Alter A Story’s Authenticity?

There are a few assumptions that go around when it comes to authors. I recently posted about the stigma of writers making an income off their work. In this post, I will talk about editing – namely, self-editing. This is where an author edits their own work. I have seen an idea floating around on social media in regards to authors editing that go along the lines of: “A story can’t be authentic if it’s been self-edited by the author.”

I think this mindset originates from a misunderstanding of what a first draft is. There’s so much more that goes into creating a story than slapping words down, completing it, and calling it a day.

Most Writers Create A Rough Draft To Edit Later

To say “self-editing ruins a story’s authenticity” is assuming that the story was a complete idea to begin with. This is rarely the case for novels or novellas. I view writing a story much like a sketcher or painter views their artwork. They will sketch or draw an outline/concept first before focusing on the details, shading here, erasing there, and they won’t finish the work until it’s exactly how they want it to look. I have always written a crappy first draft so I could edit and perfect the story each time I went over it. It’s much like painting with words – you start with a big picture idea then you add colours here, or focus on more details there. That’s why I’ve enjoyed editing so much; you create the framework of the story first then you build on it, adding more details as you go. Every edit digs deeper into the story rather than taking away from it. I didn’t even know all the details of my stories prior to writing them – I let things play out as I go along. In my opinion, you can’t get more authentic than that.

Some Writers Edit As They Go So Their First Draft Is Nearly Complete

Some authors edit as they go so they don’t have to go back and edit a monster of errors and typos. This is all a matter of personal preference and I can see the benefit to doing this. You might write a chapter then go back, correcting errors and filling in details before moving on to the next chapter.

My Thoughts On Why Some People Don’t Think Self-Edited Stories Are Authentic

#1 They are a writer or they know a writer who never edits their work (These types of writers usually create shorter pieces). They don’t realize there’s a vast difference between writing a novella/novel and writing a 3 page short story. I spoke to an ex-English teacher on Twitter once; he sent me an essay from his favourite student saying he loved that she never edited her work, because she didn’t want the original idea to be altered in any way. I thought: “How funny that he would compare an essay with a novel!”

#2 They don’t understand the writing process, because they don’t write books. Plain and simple – it’s easier to make assumptions or critique something when you’re not doing it yourself. Perhaps some people believe authors have a whole, complete story for their first draft so editing will take away from the original idea that was created. In reality, most first drafts will be very rough, even if someone edits as they go.

#3 Maybe they can’t justifiably call an author’s work bad or boring, but they can try to attack the author’s authenticity to minimalize the impact of their story.

#4 They are morally against editing of any kind. While it may not be common to have this mindset, some people may have something against editing as a concept. They believe the full, real story should be written in the first draft and nothing else should be altered. I just hope none of those people are novelists, because there would be countless errors and typos (Authors are humans, not gods. It’s okay to at least proofread your work before calling it complete). These may be the types of authors who don’t want to share their work with other people, or those who are okay with having a lot of errors in the story. They may be the same type of people who don’t like other authors making money off their work. To each their own!

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I hope you enjoyed this post today about why most authors like to self-edit their book before sharing it with the world. I appreciate you stopping by today. πŸ™‚

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14 comments

  1. Thank you for a great post. It really got me thinking how I approach my work. I am working on a novel, a novella, and a few short stories. So far, I have between 10 to 14 “drafts” of each one. Each draft is a free flow addition to the original idea. It took that many drafts for me to feel it was time to get down to the hard part of the edit. I think part of the reason I put off the revisions for so long is the fear that I may lose something from the original concept. Feedback from my beta readers gives me insights and helps to quell the fear. I feel genuine authenticity comes when you connect your ideas to a reader in ways you never expected.

    • Ooh that’s an interesting point. Connecting your story with a reader is the best feeling, really. I know some people find beta readers really helpful. It’s cool learning about other people’s processes, as we’re all quite unique in how we approach writing and end up with the final story to send out into the world.

  2. I’m not too familiar with the world of editing, so seeing both viewpoints was very eye opening! I do see where some people are coming from regarding the first draft being the most authentic as possible, however editing does have huge benefits! So I don’t know what I agree with?? πŸ˜‚

  3. Editing is a clarifying process. It is really kind of false to separate it from the pure creating. I actually think the opposite of what was proposed. The possible loss of authenticity comes when someone else edits your work, not when you do it. All exteral editing should be suggestions, for the author’s considerations. Sometime still, I will find an essay or haiku or some poetry or story fragment from a year or more ago and re-read it and notice one word to change which makes a dramatic transformation in the direction I wat to go. We are constantly editing ourselves in life. πŸ™‚

    • Yeah I completely agree that someone else editing your work can make it less authentic, especially if they are making suggestions to change key parts of the story.
      And true, editing is more of a clarifying process and it’s a genuine part of creating. πŸ™‚

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