I’m working on a new draft now, and I’m struggling some days. When you first start a new draft, it’s all possibility. It’s great because you can go anywhere. But after thirty pages it’s not so great. Why? Because you can go anywhere.
All these possibilities, all these choices—that’s what a first draft is full of. It seems like every few pages offer some new crossroads. If you think about it too much, you’ll freeze at those places. But let’s say everything goes well and you don’t freeze; you’ll still have a lot of difficult choices. Going down one road always means you won’t be going down another. What interesting things might you have come to if you had gone down the other? Alas, one of the unfortunate limitations of being a writer and human is you’ll never know.
But writing a novel is all about choices and many of those choices, in a first draft, are intuitive. Of course you can always backtrack a bit if you feel you really did go down a wrong road. Sometimes you should. Sometimes though you should just force yourself on. I’m working on a first draft now while I let something set for four or five weeks. I found myself writing a scene that doesn’t seem to fit. I considered going back but then I decided just to push on.
I think sometimes you just have to go with that first instinct, you have to be bold. Maybe you’ll throw the scene out in revision, but writing it may provide you with some benefits you can’t see. Maybe it will help you make necessary connections in your story or be some piece of back-story that illuminates a character for you at a critical moment. Everything that goes into a first draft will have to be scrutinized in later drafts, but I think it’s better to push on many times and just be aware that you worried about the scene a little in the first draft. It’s better to make those bold choices and see where they take you.