Writing Through to the End
Everybody’s writing process is different, but there are some “rules” which authors are taught regarding process. One of them is that once you begin writing, you should continue doing so, writing straight through to the end. Don’t stop. Don’t correct anything. Write straight through to the end and then go back and read through what you’ve written and begin making corrections.
Well…like a lot of “rules”, that one, too, was meant to be broken.
What you mustn’t do is to keep writing and rewriting one chapter until it’s “perfect” because it never will be perfect. I’ve known authors who’ve tried to do this and have spent a year—an Entire Year!!—on the first chapter, never advancing beyond that.
Don’t do that!
Do not write, rewrite, fix, rewrite, fix, write, fix, rewrite, write… You’ll never get anywhere!
On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with making some minor corrections as you go. They can be something as simple as fixing your commas or as complex as adding in dialogue, feelings, or description where it is needed if you realize later that you left out something important.
I’ve recently been doing that with my WIP.
It’s supposed to be a romance. A revenge romance—where the heroine decides to take revenge on the hero for breaking her heart six years earlier. Well, that’s fine. I haven’t even gotten to the part where the heroine decides to take her revenge (I’m about a third of the way through the book).
Before I get there, though, I need to establish the hero and heroine’s relationship, establish what their relationship was six years ago, and be sure that both hero and heroine are thinking how attractive and wonderful the other one is so the revenge plot is even stronger. It’s not enough to get revenge, everyone involved must suffer because of it—where would be the fun if they didn’t? (You’re just dying to read my book now, aren’t you? <grin> Yeah, I like to torture my characters. If I didn’t, the Happily Ever After at the end wouldn’t be nearly as satisfying.)
But as I write, I’m figuring all of this out (despite the fact that I plotted the book before I ever started writing). As I was writing the other day, I realized that I hadn’t established the hero and heroine’s feelings for each other at this moment—their attraction for each other. So, I stopped writing and went back and added in their thoughts and emotions. I didn’t rewrite anything, just added stuff. When I read through the book after I’ve finished writing it, I’ll make sure it all reads smoothly. I’m not doing that now. That’s for my second draft.
So, is there anything wrong with me going back and adding in emotions? I don’t think so. I could have simply written myself a note or put in a comment saying “Add more emotions here” but right now I’m feeling those emotions and I know how my characters are feeling them. Right now, I’m in the thick of the story and I know how to write what needs to be written. The writing will be smoother and more true to the character to put in those changes now than they would be if I added them in later after I’ve finished writing the entire book.
I am going back and fixing before I’ve gotten to the end of the book. And as soon as those fixes are thrown in there, I’m going to pop right back to where I stopped and carry on, moving forward. I’ll probably pause again, as I always do, about mid-way through the book to ensure my characters and story are developing the way they should be. I’ll stop to revise my plot to align with what has actually happened as I wrote the book, because things happen that I don’t necessarily plan in advance. And I’ll re-plot out the second half of the book based on what sort of people my characters have become—what I couldn’t have foreseen before I began writing and these people came to life.
So, must you write from beginning to end without stopping? No. But you also shouldn’t attempt to make each chapter perfect before moving on to the next. The key is to write through as far as you can, stopping only to ensure the plot is progressing as it needs. You can always add in plot points, foreshadowing, and descriptions later, but if you need to stop and write something that just can’t wait, I say, go right ahead.