When you’re writing fiction it’s often suggested that you write your first draft straight through without editing.
Is this good advice?
We’ve discussed this at writers’ group meetings, and I was reminded of those discussions today because I’m rewriting parts of a first draft and hoping that I don’t mess it up.
A book journal helps.
Writing fiction and editing: your book journal to the rescue
Whenever I start a new novel, I create a book journal for it—actually two journals, a folder in Obsidian, as well as a paper journal. I track all the usual things: plot, characters, and settings.
Sometimes I journal more than I write; this tends to keep me thinking about the book throughout the day.
A few days ago, I realized I’d missed opportunities to add emotion to several scenes. Things were happening off-stage, rather than on-stage.
Oh no… I winced, but I knew I had to go back and discard the off-stage material and add fresh scenes now. So I made plans in my book journal, and reread my notes from the writers’ group meetings to get some tips.
You may find the tips useful too; here they are.
1. Avoid destroying your forward momentum with too much rewriting
Rewriting tends to be seductive. You’ll always find ways to make your novel “better.” However, all that tinkering can be destructive.
Focus on writing fresh scenes, so that you make progress on the novel.
2. Your changes will affect characters and situations
My best friend never rewrites during a first draft.
However, I know that if I make major changes in plot and character, I need to see them on the page. Otherwise, they don’t seem real to me.
Do what works for you. There’s no right or wrong way to write; there’s only what works.
3. Focus on conflict: the more conflict the better
Emotion and conflict are essential. Look for ways to add conflict—make your characters struggle to achieve their goals.
Ideally, you need conflict on every page. When I reread my early scenes, I realized that three of my main characters were getting on too well—I looked for ways to add conflict in their relationships with each other.
Moving things on-stage, rather than having the characters talk about off-stage events, helped with emotion too. The novel seems more exciting now.
What about you—do you rewrite your first draft?
When you’re writing fiction, do what works for your current novel
Every book is different and poses different challenges.
If you’re struggling with your plot, this article may help: Plot Your Big Scenes First To Make Plotting Easier. Writing “out of order” works for me, try it; it may work for you too.
Writing fiction is intensely personal. Do what works for you, and good luck with your current project. 🍀
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