Unlike William Gibson, I can’t go through my manuscript every time I sit down to write. I need to do the work and move on, keep pushing forward. I tend to enjoy the rewriting more than the writing, so I have to force myself not to get bogged down in that and push ahead, especially if I feel I’ve built up some momentum.
However, I do like to return to my previous chapters for two reasons. First, continuity. This has less to do with plot, more to do with the voices of the characters. I don’t want my truck driver to be talking like a truck driver in the first chapter, then waxing poetic like a Phd in English by chapter five. That’s a bit drastic, but you get my point. I need my characters to be themselves, and I need to make sure I’m disciplined enough to keep what’s on the page clearly representing who those characters are and what they are about.
The second reason I like to start reading from the beginning is inspiration. We all hit that point where we wonder, “Is this any good?” I find that going back and rereading everything is a boost to my confidence. Yes, I do have something here. Yes, this can result in something complete and special. Yes, I have a foundation for what I’m doing. It’s a bit Stuart Smalley of me, but sometimes I need to understand that what I’m doing is good enough, it’s smart enough, and doggone it, people are going to like it.