Some people say it’s completely worthless to edit you first draft. They say this because you’ll probably end up making changes at some point anyway. Maybe it’s the plot that isn’t working, or maybe you decide you need more detail in one part and less in another. Whatever it is, this is good, sound advice.
For me, it doesn’t really work this way. Although I try not to be overly critical of what I write, I do read and edit at least the previous chapter or chunk of text before continuing my story. This is because I’m a perfectionist freak and I just can’t stand those little red underlines that text processors add to misspelled words — and please bear with me on this. I said I was a perfectionist freak, not that I’m perfect ;).
So, apart from correcting some typos, going through the last chapter helps me getting into the mood of the story, recap what has happened and continue from that. Sometimes, I manage to catch some glaring plot errors, but most of the time, though, I don’t change a thing.
Whatever strategy works for you when writing, though, there’s one thing I absolutely agree with: turn off your inner critic and don’t pay attention to what he says during your first draft.
If you are anything like me when writing, you know who this is. I’m speaking of that nagging voice that’s constantly telling you about how your writing is rubbish and full of meaningless clichés. This inner critic is a nuisance in the early stages of the writing process and can—and probably will—make you give up on your idea.
So, shut him up, lock him behind doors and just don’t pay attention to him. Write what’s in your mind, in your heart, wherever. And then, when you finish spilling your ideas to your computer or to a piece of paper, let him speak after a day or two. Give yourself time to get some distance from your words and see if you have a good idea there or not.
I find it interesting that my inner critic tends to be fiercer if I let him speak just a couple of hours after writing something. But if I give it, say, a day, I normally end up thinking to myself: “it’s really not half bad”.