The WRITER’S DIGEST website features an article called “7 Reasons to Write an Entire 1st Draft Before Going Back to the Beginning”:7 Reasons
This author isn’t talking about whether to write your novel in linear order or skip around composing scenes out of sequence (although she would probably disapprove of that practice, too). What she advises against is backtracking to revise earlier passages instead of forging onward nonstop.
I disagree with almost everything said in this article, which is clearly written for extreme pantsers. I can’t imagine starting to write a story or novel without knowing how it will end! Also, while I’m a dedicated outliner, almost all pantsers whose process I’ve read about do say they at least know where the story is headed. As for that bizarre assertion about typically chopping off 35 to 100 pages from the beginning of the first draft—good grief. As a comment on the page mentions, outlining eliminates that hazard. Anyway, my revisions more often ADD to the word count, not subtract from it, since I typically need to flesh out sketchy sensory images and emotional reactions.
I do agree, however, that there are good reasons not to go back and revise during the first-draft process. A perfectionist, even one who’s a plotter instead of a pantser, could fall into the trap this author mentions—tinkering with the early part of the book for so long she gets discouraged and never finishes. More important, revision engages the editing rather than creative part of the brain, a reason I’ve often seen cited for not trying to do both at once. And even the most thorough outliner may alter the plot during the actual writing, so it makes sense not to obsess too intensely over getting every phrase and punctuation mark right the first time around.
That said, I still tend to fiddle with earlier scenes while composing later sections of the first draft. If I think of a line of description or dialogue I should have included, I insert it while it’s fresh in my mind. If a tweak to the plot requires a minor alteration in an earlier scene, same procedure. As for polishing word choice and sentence structure, I can’t help doing that as I go along. I’m an English major who worked as a proofreader for over twenty years. It’s too late to reform. The advantage of the extensive outlining and in-process tinkering is that my drafts (whether fiction or the rare articles I occasionally still write) reach stage 1.5 pretty clean. One more pass, and they’re ready to submit. Editors seldom ask me for significant changes.
Do you revise as you go along? Or generate the entire first draft in an uninterrupted forward-moving flow?
Margaret L. CarterCarter's Crypt