Moving Around in the First Draft

One of the most appalling things I’ve seen in writing is the piece of advice spoken everywhere: “All first drafts are crap!”  It’s often accompanied by the advice to write your first draft straight through and not go back and fix anything until you get to the revision.

Craft Thoughts has an article on why writing straight through and NOT editing as you write is a bad idea.

When I started writing, I eventually gravitated into moving around in the story and adjusting things as I went along.  Not revision, and not editing–but still writing creatively–and there is a difference.

And I did have to come up with rules.  Like when I caught myself getting stuck and moving back in the story to tweak sentences.  It was more busy work and didn’t improve the story … and didn’t solve the problem I was having.

That problem kept showing up.  I couldn’t identify what it was, except it caused me to stall out at certain points in the story.  So I decided to try the write straight through advice.  I thought if I could just get the first draft done, I could fix any problems on the revisions.

Bad, bad, bad.

What I didn’t realize was that so many parts of the story are interconnected that if I left something broken in the first draft, it would ripple through the entire story from that point on.  I’d get to the revision and fix the thing I’d left for later, or in one case, skipped over.  That would trigger a cascade of changes that I had to make throughout, and each of those changes triggered yet more changes.

All because I didn’t do one simple thing in the story because I’d left it for the revision.

I like the analogy the Craft Thoughts article uses:

A better metaphor might be building a house. When you build, you want your foundation to be as strong as possible or else everything else is going to be warped and ready to collapse. Sure, it’s possible to just slap up a structure as quickly as possible with whatever materials are around, and replace every single thing piece by piece, but it’s going to take a lot more work. And, frankly, you are going to be a lot more likely to say, “Fuck it, who cares if the floor is at a 20° angle and the toilet is connected to the oven? Let’s call it a day.”

If the story’s foundation is built broken, it’s going to be broken.  Why do writers do this to themselves unnecessarily?