You should complete the first draft of your novel before editing and doing rewrites.
Besides saving you a lot of headaches and irritation, finishing the first draft of a novel before doing rewrites will make you feel more accomplished. After you put all the time and effort into the project, it’s an indescribable feeling when you have that first completed draft in your hands.
It’s also good to take a step back after completing the first draft. Don’t just hop right into things and start retooling the work. You’ll still be too close to the work and won’t be able to see certain mistakes. Taking a month or so off will give you enough time away from the draft to edit it properly.
Once you have the first draft done and have taken adequate amount of time away from the work, it’s going to make doing rewrites much easier. This is because after letting the story simmer in your head for awhile, you’ll have a better idea of the kind of story you wanted to tell. And because of that, you’ll know where you might have to cut or add some things to bring the true version of the story to life.
One of the most important changes you should hold off on until the first draft is completed is the ending. Now, I’m not saying you should necessarily have to change the ending. It might be fine just the way it is. But once you start with the rewrites you may end up changing major plot points in the story. This can lead to you changing or completely redoing the ending to better line up with the altered plot.
The main thing you want to do with the ending is have it make sense and feel natural in relation to the rest of the story. If you change the ending during the first draft instead of after, it can make you go back and change things in the story so the plot leads to the new ending. This can stall progress and make finishing the first draft really difficult.
What’s really nice about holding off on rewrites is by the time you’re done, if you don’t think the story is good enough, you’ll have a better idea of what needs to be fixed. For instance, it’s normal for writers to turn an insignificant character in the story into a more important one during the second draft. Sometimes this is done so the plot makes more sense. Other times it’s because the writer realizes how much they like that character.
It’s also easier to fix different writing elements after the first draft is completed. Maybe you realize your first person narrative would work better as third person. Or perhaps you notice you wrote the story in present tense when the story would be better suited in past tense. These are major changes that are easier to spot with a completed draft.
Finishing a first draft before editing isn’t just for novels, you should use this for any form of writing: poetry, short stories, essays, flash fiction, etc. I strongly suggest whenever you’re in the middle of writing your first draft and you get the urge to go back and rewrite, just wait. It’ll make the process smoother all around.
We all have that inner editor who constantly spots and wants to fix problems as they arise. But it bogs down the writing process and can make the story flow unnaturally. And even though it’s scary to think how your work will turn out without fixing on the go, you must remember that all first drafts are crap anyway. So don’t sweat the small stuff. The real story isn’t written, it’s rewritten.
If you found this helpful, then you might want to check out these other great writing articles.