Which Is Better? Finish a Draft or Edit as You Go?

Recently a writing friend asked how to tally her word count for NaNoWriMo. The problem for her is simple. She doesn’t pick up where she left off and simply add to the manuscript. She rewrites as she goes, fixing what she wrote the previous day before she gets started on her word count for that day.

The idea behind NaNoWriMo is that you will craft a full draft before you start editing your work. Complete a draft and you have something to work with, rewriting and polishing and getting it ready for critique. Personally, this is how I work best. I need to get something down on paper so that I can fully evaluate and then fix it.

But I have writing friends who have to rewrite as they go. They just can’t move forward to page 2 until they get page 1 right. They have to know what happens to continue on to the next page. If they make a change, they go back and fix whatever it impacts throughout the manuscript.

Me? I just make a note or highlight the new information and keep moving foward. I do this even if I make a fairly big change. In my cozy, two secondary characters have changed a great deal from chapter one to chapter 28. They are still a couple but one went from being an accountant to being a pastor. The other was a police office and is now a pastor. The change is definitely for the better because now I can work the pair into a scene without it feeling forced. They work like this and are able to have much larger roles in the story.

What about the first 3/4 of the book? I’ll fix that when I have a full draft. There are a lot of other things I’ll be changing.

The insighting incident is going to change. What my character discovers will remain the same but how she discovers it will change completely. The change makes the story more cozy and less ewwww.

But waiting to make these changes early in the manuscript wouldn’t work for everyone, and that’s okay. Your goal is to find a method that works for you right now. Sooner or later, you may need to change but that’s okay too. You just need to make it, one way or another, to the end of the manuscript.