I’m featured in the latest installment of Lynda Williams’s “Writer’s Craft” series at the Clarion Foundation blog. If you’re interested in the process of writing, feel free to stop by! Today’s article addresses the question of whether it’s better to push through the first draft of a story without stopping (planning to revise later), or if instead you should do some revision as you’re going along (producing a better first draft).
Conventional wisdom, as handed down to new writers, often insists that you must just get through the first draft without worrying about how bad it is, and revise later. But I’m not convinced (though I’m not entirely convinced that this is wrong, either). I do think that experienced writers often fall into the trap of thinking that their way is best for everyone, and this can be disheartening to new writers if that way doesn’t happen to work for them.
Those who, like me, tend to do some revision along the way as they’re writing a first draft, or can’t continue with a scene until they’ve researched some worldbuilding detail, should be encouraged to know that not all successful authors belong to the “full speed ahead on the first draft” school. Several months ago, I listened to an interview on NPR with author David Mitchell (“named one of Time‘s most influential people”), who said he can’t keep writing a scene in an historical novel until he’s figured out how the room would have been lit at night.
If you have a writing technique that works for you, don’t let anyone else tell you you’re doing it wrong!