In this post of mine, I’ve stressed that we shouldn’t edit while writing first draft and the reasons why it’s such a bad idea. It seems simple to say never look back while writing the first draft and most of the time it’s great advice. But at times you have to go back.
Now this isn’t contradicting what i sais before. Let’s see why. When you start your novel, you have ideas sprouting left, right and centre and words pouring on the page. But what when you run out of steam and get stuck? What when the story becomes ‘hard work’? If you are too busy looking at the present scenario in your story, you often run the danger of losing the sight of the original premise with which you began. And that’s when looking back becomes necessary.
I’ve been facing this problem the whole of the last month. Every sentence seemed painfully dragged out to the page. Finally I came to the conclusion that this first draft had to be fixed now or the mess I had would only become bigger. So I went back on my own favourite saying and began to look back para by para where things went wrong.
After a lot of head banging and painful editing I found the problem was in the hero’s background. I hadn’t fully understood my character. Since character is revealed page by page and scene after scene as you write, this is the easiest mistake to make. So the further I wrote the more erroneous was the sketching but I hadn’t been listening to him. Finally I got it fixed and now after deleting thousands of words, I’m back on track. However, still happier and wiser because I’ve found a way to fix as I go along. And I call it ‘The three R’s of first draft.’
As soon as you’re done with a scene – be it of any length or number of paragraphs, think about it. Not actively ponder but just immerse in it as you attend to other mundane activities. That’s the first R – reflect.
If you’re not clear about what it’s there for or if it serves the story, go back and reread. The second R.
Then the third R – reason, if that particular scene really should end here? And if this is sufficient set up for next bit? Speed is good but this is more important. By doing this, I found that I needed more building up towards the next scene simmering in my mind. So hoisting up some patience I sat down to work at it. As you reason, you might do the fourth R – rewrite. And then, you might find that the brilliant scene you planned didn’t even belong in the story or you might find that now it packs even more punch. But either way you have worked reason into your story and it makes more sense now.
So remember the three R’s while first drafting.
Reflect reread and reason.