The other day I was talking with my dad on the phone. Inevitably writing came into the conversation as it usually does with the two of us. At his job he writes a lot of proposals. He mentioned he is currently writing one this week and he's stuck. Then he said something that I think applies to many writers, in all areas. He said he just needed to get a draft written and then go back to edit it.
This struck me. This is exactly how I write. I have to get that first draft written. I don't worry about the level of crap it looks like. I have to get those ideas and that story down on paper. Once that is done I can return and edit the heck out of it until it shines. I know this is not the way for all writers. I have read many blog posts where writers are stuck on the same chapter for days, or even weeks at a time. I could not handle that. For me the story would fizzle and I would lose all motivation on the story.
How do I know this? Because I have tried this method and failed, miserably. When I first began writing novels I was under the impression that I had to have the best draft of each chapter before I could move on to the next. This slowed me down. I lost story and motivation with each chapter. I lost focus on where the story was actually going. For over a year I struggled with the same story, changing all sorts of aspects regarding the story line and characters. I never got more than a third done with it before I scrapped it.
Then in 2010 I participated in my first NaNoWriMo. It was life changing for my writing process. I didn't worry about how messy each chapter was, I just wrote. In the end I was shocked. I had written a complete story, however I didn't reach the 50,000 words by the deadline. Still, I finished the project. I didn't lose sight. I didn't lose my motivation. In a little over a month I had a full manuscript. One that I could return to and edit. This was big. Since then I have only ever written in the NaNo format. I research, take lots of notes, make an outline, and then I spend the next month writing straight through.
I know this is not how everyone writes. I have heard other writers saying they have to work their first chapter over and over until they get it right before they can move on to the next chapter. Everyone writes differently. Certain approaches that work for one writer don't for another.
So, which way do you write best?