One question on rewriting, about when you rewrite. I’ve read things which say you shouldn’t mix writing and rewriting. Write it all first, then rewrite it. I can understand that “creative” and “analytical” hats can be conflicting and that sometimes one has to just write crap first before improving upon it (which is difficult if you’re thinking critically), but I generally find I bounce back and forth between rewriting previous sections and writing more. Is this such a terrible thing to do?
If mixing rewriting and writing works for you then go for it!1
My partner, Scott, spends the first few hours of his writing day rewriting the previous three days work. Once he’s got that under control, and only then, does he move onto fresh writing.
Me, I rewrite (while writing the first draft) only if I’m a stuck on the next bit. On the mornings when I wake up and know exactly what needs to happen next, I dive into it. On the mornings I don’t, I
procrastinate endlessly rewrite or go back and fill in the blanks where I have notes to myself like [something should explode here] or [figure out where this conversation’s happening] or [what happened to the quokkas?].
For a lot of writers the difference between the “writing” and the “rewriting” can be blurry. If you work according to Scott’s method then your finished first draft is more like a third or fourth draft because every section has been gone over at least three times. You work according to mine then you’ve got lots of actual first draft but also some second, third, fourth, or whatever.
I know some writers who really don’t read over any of what they’ve written until they’ve got a whole draft, but I suspect they’re rare. I know of one writer who burns2 that first draft and then starts over from scratch. Some writers have gone over their work so many times by the time their “first” draft is finished they don’t need to “rewrite” at all, they’re done.
That’s one of the brilliant things about the intramanets: all the writers’ blogs and essays and interviews online means it’s dead easy to see just how widely varied writing practice is and how contradictory all the gobbets of writing advice.
Whatever works for you is the way to re/write.
Just remember that can change from story to story and from day to day. Sometimes Raymond Chandler’s advice of hanging out in the one room and not having to write, but not being allowed to do anything but write will be just the ticket. Frankly, it’s never worked for me unless I have a heinous deadline and the room I’m in has no intramanets or books or telephone or packs of cards or, well, you get the idea.