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Frequently asked questions: How does editing fuel the creative process?

When a writer finishes the first draft of a novel the editing task ahead can feel daunting. The first edit is traditionally done by the author so that he or she can send a cleaner manuscript to a professional editor. Is that first edit connected to the creative process? Does it kick start the creative process or is it just the mechanical process of correcting grammatical errors and run-on sentences? I would say that editing is an intrinsic part of the creative development of a novel. When I look at the world I have created on paper and I re-experience the blossoming of characters, plot, and places. I see many choices I could have made and sometimes I change circumstances or character motivations and the creative process begins again.

When writers edit the creative juices expand and deepen. This allows the author to experience life with his or her creations on a more visceral level. It is no longer a superficial experience, but a world that demands the truth. Editing inspires new ideas, possibilities, and directions for a novel. Editing is less about correcting mistakes and more about embracing perspectives. It is about excavating potentiality and I have found that one of the emerging potentials is another book. As the writer dives into a completed work he or she might find the nuggets for a future book. A new story line may be uncovered without searching for it. Editing reveals many potentials and the writer must be alert to these prospects.and must choose, The author must decide whether to delete a paragraph or an entire chapter that does not move the story forward.or take that chapter and create another novel. Nothing is ever wasted.

It may take a while to ignite creativity when the writer steps into editing mode. It is like warming up at the gym before the workout begins. As the edit begins the writer enters the zone of creativity and the thinking mind relaxes, it gives the author access to the intuition that brings more clarity to the writing. Editing is always part of the creative process. In fact, editing is creativity on steroids, it cuts away the superfluous and hindrances to the flow of the story. Characters flaws are embellished and used to make them more believable. Think of editing as a reboot, willing to let things go (character changes, plot, event) and revising others. The writer has to be alert to opportunities to expand where necessary and contract where required. This is fundamentally creative, being able to go with how the energy flows to create a more seamless book.

Many authors find the editing process tedious and it can be. The creative process is not about having one's head in the clouds and sailing ahead without any glitches. Writing is challenging and brings up all insecurities, and that is also true of editing. Confidence in creativity is key. The secret is to continue writing even if self-doubt seeps when we edit. It is the same experience when writing the first draft of a novel. Writers just need to keep going.


Carmela Cattuti started her writing career as a journalist for the Somerville News in Boston, MA. After she finished her graduate work in English Literature from Boston College she began to write creatively and taught a journal writing course at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education As fate would have it, she felt compelled to write her great aunt's story. “Between the Cracks” has gone through several incarnations and will now become a trilogy. Her second novel, The Ascent has just been published. Check out her books at To connect with Carmela email her Visit her website at

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