Writing Versus Editing or Creative Versus Critic

Guest post by Deborah Hawkins, Author of Ride Your Heart ’til it Breaks

Author Deborah HawkinsMany years ago I had the great pleasure of teaching writing to college freshmen. Many of them dreaded Composition 101 because their high school English teachers had never explained to them that the process of writing something and the process of editing it are two entirely different functions. Many of my students would write a sentence and then immediately analyze it for errors and become too paralyzed by doubt and indecision about “mistakes” to go on writing.

At the opposite end of the spectrum was a free-spirit who simply wrote any and every thought that came into her head without analysis, without punctuation, and often without paragraphing. Unlike my paralyzed souls who would present me with two little sentences in place of a whole composition, Miss Free-Spirit would give me page after page of formless free association. None of these students understood the difference between writing and editing.

Writing is the creative side of expressing an idea. To write, you have to turn off your inner critic and focus on what you want to say. I do a lot of planning when I am writing fiction, and much of that planning consists of character biographies and story time lines that I jot down without much thought to the fine points of grammar and punctuation. These bits of writing are for my eyes only, so I am the only one who has to understand them. Similarly, as I write a chapter, I give little thought to mistakes. I am more like Miss Free-Spirit.

But after I have finished a chapter of a novel, I turn on my critical side and become my own editor. Now I look for errors in punctuation, in spelling, and paragraphing, and above all, in communication. The writing function is expressing the idea. The editorial function answers the question, how well did I communicate it.

I have never had any difficulty editing myself. I worked as a technical editor for a year or so between my teaching job and entry into law school. I have always been able to look at my own work as if someone else had written it. In fact, I am more ruthless when I edit myself because when I edit someone else I want to be careful to preserve the writer’s unique voice. A really good editor makes a piece of writing better but does not take it over and make it the editor’s own work. The best editors always respect the writer’s individual style.

Award PhotoWhen I write a novel, I like to do my first edits chapter by chapter, so that I can catch any major problems before I get too far along in the book. On the days when I sit down to write and nothing comes, I find it helpful to read the last chapter I wrote. After that, the next bit of the story seems to flow easily through my fingers.

My absolute favorite moments comes when a draft of the entire manuscript is finished. I am always relieved that I now have a complete version of my idea in writing, and I am ready to edit it. It is much easier to turn on the editor-critic function and improve a piece of writing than it is to write in the first place. In other words, the creative side of communication is more demanding than the critical function. But both are essential to excellent writing and storytelling, and I enjoy them both. Creating any piece of writing, whether fiction or non-fiction, is much easier to do when you realize writing and editing are different tasks that need to be performed at different times in the overall process of composition.

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About the Book…

On an October evening in 1994, attorney Karen Moon, enters Jazz By the Bay in San Diego’s Seaport Village, and without warning throws away ten years of marathon labor to become a partner at prestigious Warrick, Thompson, when she falls in love with the star attraction, trumpeter Stan Benedict. Never mind that she is on a corporate spying mission to close the club so that her client Waterfront Development can hijack the prime bay location for a hotel/retail shop complex. And never mind that Stan, a world class flirt, has every woman in the audience longing to go home with him. In Stan’s music, Karen hears a deeper truth: behind the performer’s confident, shallow mask is a vulnerable, lonely man longing to be loved.

Addicted to Stan and his music, Karen secretly crosses ethical boundaries and risks her career to save the club from Waterfront. She and Stan begin a tumultuous affair that culminates in an unplanned pregnancy and a hasty marriage. But their relationship is increasingly threatened by the demands of Karen’s job as a highly paid securities lawyer and by the rising crescendo of Stan’s frequent infidelities. Through mounting heartbreak, Karen struggles to hold on to Stan until they are swept apart by a tide of personal and professional loss.

Thirteen years later, without warning, Stan suddenly reappears in Karen’s life to tell her he never stopped loving her. Now a superior court judge and married to Warrick Thompson partner Howard Morgan, Karen is faced with Howard’s threats to destroy her if she leaves her marriage.

Ride Your Heart ‘Til It Breaks is a complex love story about loss, infidelity, forgiveness, and self-discovery.


Author Deborah Hawkins/ Reviewed by Felita Daniels / 415 Pages

This book really came alive for me with the music.  I was in the school orchestra, jazz band, marching bank and the choir.  I can tell you there is nothing more electrifying than music performed live.  Deborah really got that and wrote it well. I’ve never worked in an attorney’s office, but it seems just the opposite of a creative musical lifestyle.

From the very start of this book I was sad for the main character Karen, the attorney. She thought of her younger self, Carrie Moon, as being dead. In the early pages, Karen is seen by outsiders as successful in her career. She doesn’t enjoy her work though. We are privy to her unhappy, loveless marriage. In a way though, Karen made choices that got her to this point. How horrible- a double whammy- unhappy home life and work life.

“So you let someone else choose your life?” a character asks her. Do you want to know how and when Carrie Moon stopped looking for her own type of happiness? Would you have chosen differently? What choices landed her in this unhappy rock and a hard place? Is there an opportunity for her to make a different choice here and now? You will have to read the book. It is a rocky road I can tell you. It is written well with heart and soul, and a jazz beat.

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About the Author

Deborah Hawkins 2 PhotoDeborah grew up in the South, wrote her first novel at age thirteen, and has been writing ever since. In graduate school, she studied Irish Literature and came to believe all Irishmen and Southerners are born storytellers. In addition to writing, she loves music and plays the clarinet. Now that her children are grown, she devotes her time to law, music, writing, and her two Golden Retrievers, Melody and Rhythm.

Deborah taught college English and worked as a technical editor before going to law school. She worked for several large East Cost firms before coming to California in the mid-1980’s where she developed a solo practice as an appellate attorney while raising her three children as a single parent. She is admitted to the bar in two states and the District of Columbia, is a certified appellate specialist, and has a Master of Laws in addition to a Masters in English. She believes that even a legal case always begins with a story.

Deborah’s Facebook | Dance For A Dead Princess Facebook | Author Blog | Review Blog  |  Amazon

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Filed under Writing Craft

17 Responses to Writing Versus Editing or Creative Versus Critic

  1. Rita Wray

    I liked the review.

  2. Linda Kish

    The about the book part was wonderful. It just pulled me in and made me want more.

  3. momjane

    Great review. This sounds like a sad story and I hope it ends well.

  4. Book sounds great! I love books “music” based books – I was a bit of a band nerd myself. I wish I could so easily self edit, though. I have dabbled in writing recently, and I feel like no matter how many times I go back and look at my writing, I’m always finding something that isn’t right.

  5. Betty w

    I loved the excerpt! Thank you for sharing and for the contest!

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