When I first started writing (I was twelve), it was by hand. Nothing got edited! When my typing speed overtook my handwriting, I didn't do much more than correct mistakes with a bit of Tippex. My first PC (it was an Amstrad....ahem) meant I could do a weeny bit more editing, but even then, I didn't do much. I wasn't a proper writer yet and considered that everything I wrote was perfect first time.
I turned into a Real Writer when I began the Fleet Quintet. Working more professionally, using what is now an ancient version of Word, I was far more willing to rip things apart; to rewrite and rewrite until it worked; to throw out what didn't work and begin again. Nowadays, the REAL writing for me begins when I do the Big Edit. My writing seems - generally - to follow a particular pattern.
- The story is created in my head, then in notes.
- The first draft is an attempt to get the story down and is usually an excruciating process of self-doubt, anxiety, wordlessness, and zero inspiration.
- This "first draft" will consist of several edits, usually rewriting of earlier bits because something later on doesn't work. So there's still a lot of plotting going on as well as character changes, even name changes. Sometimes there are changes from third to first person. Sometimes I restart the whole damn thing from the beginning. But this is ALL still part of the "first draft." I'm still getting it down on paper, as it were (or on a computer screen).
- The Big Edit comes when the first draft is finished. I might have a rest period before I start this. It usually entails reading the whole story in one go (or several if it's a novel) and making notes but NOT changing anything. That comes later. Depending on how well the first draft went, the Big Edit could vary in length. I've been known to abandon a story altogether and then come back to it and finish it with a flourish. It happens.
- The Red Edit is when I print out the story and read it VERY closely indeed, armed with a red pen. This is probably closer to proofreading, though by the time I get to the Red Edit, I've already done a thorough spell and grammar check and would have proofread it before printing it.
- Read the chapter through thoroughly, correctly everything on the page with red pen that you would normally do on a computer.
- Then make these corrections on the computer. This gives you a SECOND chance to see your corrections which means you really have to think about what you are doing.
In the end, I'll end up with a novel that has been thoroughly overhauled, which is what I'm aiming for.