Build writing confidence: don’t read back

Last Saturday I was watching my weekly British cooking shows, when suddenly someone said something I’ve been saying to my clients for months now. Sound weird? Well, maybe it helps to know that the hosts of this particular show had an author on as their guest. Anyway. They were talking about how many authors get stuck on the first paragraph or chapter. And how some people never finish their book, whilst others write a book per year. And the (to me unsurprising) answer was: don’t read your own unedited work! Why? It all has to do with building your writing confidence.

Build your writing confidence: Don't read back

Especially if you’re a beginning author, you’ll be used to reading texts that have been edited to (near) perfection. They’ll have been checked for grammatical errors. For spelling. For structure. The author will have written and rewritten the text. One or more professional editors may have looked at it. Whether it’s a blogpost, news article or book, it will have undergone revisions at one point or another.

So you spend your life blissfully reading edited texts. The world’s bright. Everything you read seems effortlessly faultless…

And then you start writing a book. You’re excited about it, you feel it is going to be the next bestseller! So you write the first paragraph. You stop. And you go back and read it. Nine out of ten times, this is where you’ll get stuck. You’re pretty much guaranteed to lose your writing confidence. Because there is no way that your first-ever unedited paragraph is going to even come close in quality to the polished texts you’re used to reading. 

But this is your baby, and you want it to be perfect! And even if you don’t get angry or upset with yourself for not having written something perfect, you’ll probably get stuck editing and rewriting that single paragraph until the end of days. 

When should I reread my work?

Okay, I may have exaggerated a little. But I’m sure you’ll get the point: don’t go back and read your unedited work when you start writing. 

But you’ll have to start revisions at some point, right? Yes. Right. When your first draft is done.

Think of your first draft as a pencil sketch. Though many people feel a sense of completion once they put the period after “The end”, this is really when the work starts. Once you have put the sketch on paper, or canvas, and celebrated the completion, you can get to work. You can take the sketched lines and turn it into strong singular borders. You can add color. And maybe an Instagram filter. But it is impossible to determine what the line (of argument) should be if you haven’t put all the information you need on paper.

So, there it is. The main point  of this blogpost. If you want to build writing confidence, do not read your unedited work until you’ve finished your draft. Trust me, it will make all the difference.

How to start editing

When you do start editing your own work, it’s often difficult to know where to start. My top tip: edit your work in rounds. This, too, will help you build writing confidence, as you’ll no longer get overwhelmed by all the things you’ll need to fix. 

In the first round, focus on big picture elements and in every subsequent round focus on a different, smaller scale, issue. In general, the easiest way to go about it is to follow the order in the image below. Feel free to download, save or share so you can refer to it when you start editing.

Edit in the right order

How I can help you build your writing confidence

As a writing coach, I specialize in the mental aspects of the writing process. When you feel weighed down by self-doubt, I can help lift you back up! In regular coaching sessions, I’ll help you set goals, remind you of your achievements, and give you a peptalk when you need it.

As an editor, I can help you improve your text with sensitivity and care. I will be honest about how you can improve your writing, but I’ll also tell you what I love about your text. So whenever you feel like your text will never be what you want it to be: just send it to me and we’ll fix it together. If you are at that point where you can use some fresh eyes, I can help. My editing services for Passionate Writers are here to do just that! 

Just schedule a free video call so we can find out if we’re a good fit.