I’m going to lay this card right on the table: I am a HUGE worry wart. When something niggles at the back of my brain, I can’t seem to do away with it. And it tends to affect my writing life, unfortunately. According to Don Fry in a piece he wrote for the most recent issue of Writer’s Digest magazine, titled, “7 Steps to a Foolproof Revision”, another thing that can cause even more stress to anyone’s writing life is worrying about what you’ve written, which is a cycle perpetuated by revising-while-writing.
Now when I read this, I felt conflicting opinions. On the one hand, it’s sound advice. Constantly doubling back to edit can be a tiring thing, so don’t do a comb-through for grammatical errors and go back fixing them every five seconds during your writing blocks. Just leave it be. On the other hand, this gets tricky when you’re writing a long novel (as it does for me working on mine, a new idea and a rewrite of an old draft, so yeah, TWO novels–how’s that for overtime?) and there are certain plot pieces that come up later in the book that you didn’t realize were going to be there until you wrote yourself to that point, but there’s no mention of them in what you’ve already written, so on the whole, they seem to come out of nowhere in the unaltered text so far.
So I go back and insert them (gasp).
But along the way, I’ll notice something wrong grammatically, or some other tidbit error, and I am COMPELLED to fix it, while I’m in the neighborhood. But then I come away feeling guilty about it.
I’ve decided to try and resolve this seemingly needless conflict, guilt-free.
From now on, I’m going to justify my going back to add plot points and devices with the fact that if I don’t do it, it’ll eat at me anyway. And I feel that for the work of a novel, something that big, it’s a bit different. But this is just my opinion, I’m counting myself among the experts, just drawing from personal experience. If anything, when I eventually put the draft away in a drawer upon its completion and then whip it out several months later with that fresh eye, things will click more with at the very least all the plot pieces, great and small, in place.
That’s just my opinion. Otherwise, in short bursts of writing, scene by scene, I’m going to just blunder down the page and leave it be as far as grammar and overall construction is concerned, and go back with the embroidery needle later when I lift this rough draft from the darkness of the drawer months after the it’s finished.
To further emphasize, this is just a decision I’ve come to in order to satisfy my own needs as a writer. I’m still learning this stuff as I go. But we all know the best way to learn is by trial and error, right?