Go Back and Revise, or Keep Drafting?

I’m at that point on my WIP where I know I’m going to make some edits to chapters I’ve already written that will significantly change a viewpoint character. I have to make the choice whether to go back and revise now, or to forge ahead and finish the first draft before revising.

Normally, I’m a big fan of revising first when this sort of thing happens. It’s hard to build on what came before if you don’t even know what that is. If I haven’t rewritten those scenes, their emotional content can’t inform what I’m writing now. I can’t make subtle references back to what happened there, or let the particulars of those key events drive how my characters act and make decisions now. I can’t refer back to those unwritten scenes in dialogue or internal monologue.

In this case, though, I’m going to forge ahead. Because this is a multi POV project and I’m trying to do some cool things with how the POVs play off each other, I already know there’s a lot of revising in my future. Anything I go back and revise now is just going to get revised again when I’m done, and the new stuff I write now is probably also going to get revised…maybe even completely rewritten. This is not going to be a “clean, awesome first draft” kind of book. It’s going to be messy before it gets pretty.

So I’m going to let go of perfectionism (for now) (at least a bit) and forge ahead, choosing momentum over continuity in this draft. Different books require different strategies!

I know I’m not the only one who’s faced this dilemma… I’d love to hear how others have handled it!

About Melissa Caruso

Fantasy author of the Swords & Fire trilogy: THE TETHERED MAGE (Orbit, 2017), THE DEFIANT HEIR (Orbit, 2018), and THE UNBOUND EMPIRE (Orbit, 2019), as well as the forthcoming Rooks and Ruin trilogy, beginning with THE OBSIDIAN TOWER (coming June 2020 from Orbit). Melissa's debut, THE TETHERED MAGE, was shortlisted for the Gemmell Morningstar Award in 2017. Melissa loves tea, adventure, and the great outdoors, and has been known to swordfight in ballgowns. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, two superlative daughters, three cats, and a Labrador. Represented by Naomi Davis of BookEnds. View all posts by Melissa Caruso

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