Well, I'm about six weeks into a new novel, and so far the going has been pretty good. I've been trying to write faster than I have in the past, at least for the summer, when I have a little more time to write than during the school year. Get as many pages done as possible by the end of August and save all revising till later. That's the thought anyway. As usual, despite that thought, I find myself revising and editing and doubling back on myself to change things as I go along. I never follow a set daily word count. Sometimes I do a thousand words in a day, other times two hundred, that two hundred, of course, being a reflection of five or ten drafts of the same paragaph to get to that final meager word count. I never do a first draft start to finish, then a second draft, then a third, etc, and have always found it hard to proceed for thousands of words without halfway liking the words I've already written. I was talking with a friend recently about her writing plans for the summer, and she was telling me how she's determined to get a complete first draft done by September. As a school teacher, she has the entire summer off, so she'll use the time she has in July and August to get the book done in rough form. "At least I'll have another book finished," she told me, meaning enough done to go back and get to the serious work of making all the needed fixes.
I sometimes wish I could work that way and maybe I should force myself to. I'm trying to push myself more in that direction. In any event, I find there's a tension between the need to polish and perfect on the go and the desire to push ahead to make sure pages accumulate. Also, I wonder, in doubling back so often, do you stunt your own momentum as a writer? Very possibly. And a form may emerge in your story, a twist, a structure, just from you letting things flow. On the other hand, I so hate forging ahead knowing I'll only be going back to fix a ton of things later. Why not fix them now, if I know they need fixing?
It's a tension well captured in these two passages by Annie Dillard, in her great book The Writing Life. She makes the case very well for editing a lot as you go, and she makes the case just as well for not editing as you go: