The main advice is don’t do it. And I agree. Don’t go back and reread your work. I think it helped me actually finish my manuscript. And did you see? I finished the thing and had some thoughts!
Why is this the advice? Because it keeps you from going forward! This is what we/you/I need to do– keep writing. If we/you/I get too caught up on what we previously wrote, we’d never finish anything ever. So, as a rule, don’t go back and reread it. Don’t go back and reread it unless you are seriously ready to rewrite it.
I do reread some of what I previously wrote. If I’m in the middle of working on a chapter, I read from the beginning of the chapter to get me in the right frame of mind and to jog my memory. If I’m starting to write the beginning of a chapter, I read just the last couple paragraphs of the last chapter.
I also reread some important paragraphs if I’m referring to them in the scene I’m working on. For example, there’s a letter that my main character reads. Later on, she’s remembers that very letter. So, I did a “control find” to read just that part. And that’s okay! I needed the exact working of the letter to write my scene. That’s perfectly justifiable. But the general rule still applies. I’m not rereading my entire book from the beginning. For a perfectionist like me, I would get way too caught up and never finish.
What I found helps to prevent me from rereading, is to name my chapters. I use google docs and the document outline. With my chapters named, they jog my memory about the progression of the story. Of course, I also have an outline that I refer to. But it’s also very easy and convenient to look at the side of my document to see what happened in the previous two chapters without rereading those chapters.
I am almost done writing draft two of my book and will hopefully give it to beta readers by the end of the week. I’m so excited to read through the whole thing. It’ll be so rewarding to read it as a finished piece and read it as a reader, not a writer. Obviously, there is so much to work on and change (both plot-wise and on the sentence level) but I can judge the manuscript as a whole book.
Do you reread your writing? Does it work for you? I’d love to hear your opinion or your experience in the comments below.