Yes, you must. You really must. You can’t get halfway through and think, ‘I’m going back to the beginning and read and probably rewrite…’ You’ll muck up the continuity of the story and the plot. It’s like getting halfway through a sculpture of a bird and deciding you want to turn it into a cat. As crappy as the first draft always is, editing starts when you get to the end. There’s nothing wrong with jotting down ideas on paper for any changes, though.
My problem is, the urge has always been too great for me and I’ve always been guilty of ignoring this advice, so for my latest book, Faking Attraction, I was determined I was going to be good and stick to the golden rule, until recently, when I had a fall after helping my husband move his car off the ramp and badly sprained my wrist. Oh, the pain! I rolled about on the driveway in agony and the bag of frozen peas didn’t help, it just made it hurt more. My wrist and hand blew up like a balloon. The following day, I was in trouble: I couldn’t type. I could write, though, as it was my left hand and I’m right-handed. So, high as a kite on Nurofen, out came the notebook, but then I thought could I be bothered to carry on writing a chapter by hand?
No, I couldn’t, so guess what I did? The urge niggled at me and anyway, I was also suffering with a terrible case of writer’s block. I thought up an excuse. ‘I can’t type paragraphs one-handed…’ (I’m a trained touch-typist) ‘so it’ll have to be re-reading and maybe doing a bit of an edit here and there. I can type the odd word one-handed.’
By the time my wrist healed, I’d caught up to chapter twenty-two and I believe I’d done a lot of good rewriting; and I think it’s helped me to continue to the end. But it’s very, very bad practice, and when I do get to the end, that’s not the end of it. That will be the first draft and a bit, and then I have to edit all over again.