Early chapters of a first draft are typically the MOST awkward.
Despite having done all your background homework on the characters you are still a little green at writing them in the first couple of chapters. Don’t get me wrong, you can still capture them in the 75-80% range but it isn’t until you revisit them with a completed story arc in your pocket that nuances start to occur to you.
The Person we see at the end of the book is instrumental to the first encounter we have in the first chapters. You’ve gone through hell with these characters and you know clearly how it ends. This is where you get to seed in little bits of character that grow out of later interactions into early scenes to strengthen the character continuity. Limps, wardrobe, descriptions, dialogue or physical tics can all be seeded in so they become part of the character arc/personality from the outset.
Why don’t I just do it as I go?
Certainly you can do it as you go, but I would recommend against it. No this is not a blanket staement about all writers, your experience may vary. But I struggled to complete a lot of things before I read Steven King’s On Writing which imparted to me what has been probably THE most helpful bit of advice I have ever recieved. Don’t edit as you go. FINISH your first draft THEN edit. For me, this made all the difference.
I used to be working say Chapter Five and needed to go back to check a name or event from Chapter One or Two and would spot a bunch of little errors or decide wanted to add a thread there and then that I figured out in Chapter Three. That all can be done at any time. At Chapter Five the story is still finding itself usually and so you may end up changing those things yet again. When you complete a draft you have the power of specifically knowing the whole story and this allows you to make those edits with confidence. It doesn’t rob you of momentum. And the most important thing in writing is getting things finished.
Seriously, no one cares about your best idea from Eight Grade as a concept or one or two spiral notebooks if it isn’t finished. If someone is interested in your concept but you can’t give them at least a finished first draft that is the loss of opportunity. First finish and then fix.
Again this is just how it is for me and although humans vary and I have heard of some people who rock it out and edit as they go that is going to be a minority of writers. By all means try it. But if you have started ten books and finished zero consider this a red flag for the editing habits.
How About you?
I love to discuss process. So I am interested in your thoughts and tricks around the editing process. Do you complete a first draft before making edits and hw is that working or not working for you? Are you an experienced writer or still struggling through the weeds to get yiur first masterpiece completed?
Let me know in the comments!