Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A to Z Challenge: Failed Drafts

Isn't it just wonderful how life just screws over our best-laid plans? Almost exactly five minutes after I updated the first round of posts, my Internet Connection failed completely, and I was stuck without it all day.

So I'm still a day behind, which is sort of a theme for me at the moment. I'm also a day behind (give or take a few hundred words) for Camp NaNoWriMo. That said, I've written 12k words and edited half a book in a week, so I've got nothing to complain about.

Hopefully today, if the Internet holds, I'll catch up with the A to Z Challenge. I should be caught up with Camp NaNo by tomorrow.

Now, I'm going to pretend this isn't a bit of a non-sequitur and say:

Speaking of writing and NaNo, do you realize how many rough drafts you won't finish before you finish one? 

My number is seven. Yep, I tried - and failed - to write a rough draft seven times before I managed to get through one.

I think all writers have at least one "failed" draft.

Ah. You picked up on the quotes there. Let me explain them.

See, the same people who think that writing is a journey filled with bunnies and unicorns also think that it's incredibly easy to finish a rough draft.

Most of those people haven't tried writing as much as a short-story. Never mind a novel.

NEW TANGENT! Not saying a short story is in any way inferior to a novel. Once you get past the how-the-heck-do-I-fit-this-in-less-than-10k-words jitters, it's a significant amount easier to finish than a 50k, 60k, 80k, 120k draft. If only for the reason that 10k is so much faster to write. Fewer odds of your muse or anything else distracting you, for example. Or the what-the-hell-am-I-doing-I-can't-write-shit jitters to hit home, for that matter. It's for this reason that I usually recommend that new writers who don't have a particular idea for a novel try their hands at various length short stories first and work their way up. It's a wonderful way to get into the habit of putting thoughts into words without the word count intimidating them.

TANGENT TO THE TANGENT: I omit the truth that I find short stories devilishly difficult to write as well. No use scaring the minions before converting them to the dark side. MUHAHAHAHA!

Ahem. Enough digressing for now.

The point I'm trying to make is that if you've never even tried writing any sort of fiction, you don't know how fiendish it is to actually write it.

So when you're new and haven't any idea about what it takes to finish  a story, you're going to have a few (or quite a few) unfinished drafts and possibly a significant chunk of your ego as collateral damage. This, my friend, is not failure.

It's part of the process. No amount of me or any other writer telling you how to write will teach you how to finish a draft. You learn by trial and error. This naturally means that you're going to make mistakes, and those mistakes will mean that you won't be able to finish a particular draft just yet.

Oh, you noticed the "just yet" too. Sharp. You're very sharp. See sometimes, you're going to realize that your idea just isn't panning out. So you shove that draft into a drawer (or some forgotten place on your hard drive) and move on to the next idea.


You better be moving on or all your plot bunnies will meet with some unfortunate accident. 

You'll keep putting away unfinished ideas, but all is not lost. First, you're learning, and you're probably going to take what you did like from one unfinished draft to the next story you try to write. This way, your skills keep evolving until one day, you write "The End."

Then, after you've celebrated. Or after another "failed" draft, you'll get some insight into what will make that one draft in your drawer work. Then you'll start that one again and actually finish that. (Or it might take ten or so further lessons, but hey, you're still learning.)

In other words. There are finished drafts or unfinished ones.


The sooner you learn this, the more fun you'll have.

Veteran writers: How many unfinished drafts did you have before finishing your first? New kids: You are moving on, right? 


  1. Final drafts are kind of my downfall.

  2. I finish all my drafts... THEN I read it and realise it's all complete rubbish... Then my next draft starts :-)

    Annalisa, writing A-Z vignettes, at Wake Up, Eat, Write, Sleep

  3. I hate running into issues like that mid a to z!
    Last year, the host of my blog decided to no longer host blogs-- MID A TO Z CHALLENGE! So, as if I didn't have enough going on, I had to relocate to wordpress and figure out how to move everything in the middle of April. Pure madness.

    Doing camp NaNoWriMo during A to Z... brave. Best of luck in managing everything.

  4. Yes, we all go through this don't we, but so great when we progress to the next stage.

  5. Thank you for making writing so human! I need to write a "failed" first draft instead of merely thinking about it once in a while.

  6. I have about six failed first drafts that I've never went back to. And yes, writing short stories is tough. I make myself do it, though!

  7. I think I finished most of them, but they all got shoved in a drawer. And yes, I did pull one out and rewrite it.

  8. Oh, I know those "unfinished" drafts - I have too many to count, and then my first novel had 7 content drafts - some only half-finished before I moved onto the next version. It was horrible. I'm struggling with my third novel in the trilogy, too. I started a rough draft, threw it out, started again, mostly got through it, and then changed a sub-plot line and re-wrote it. I count all my early drafts by number, even if they aren't "finished" ones. Otherwise, it's too confusing.

    And yes, some short stories come together for me - in a magical instant. And then some . . . well, they are lurking in files here and there, begging to be finished. Hmm.

    Maybe someday, when I stop having new ideas. :)

    Thanks for this great post on unfinished drafts.

    BTW - I gave you a shout-out today on my blog!

  9. You are so funny!That was like one big gasp of air in case the internet fails you again.

  10. I love this post - it's so true! I can't remember exactly how many failed drafts I've accumulated over the years, but it's a lot...but it's true, if you keep going, you will get there in the end!

  11. Hahaha Dani we all have one. ;-)

    Annalisa, I do that too.

    Lenni, it always sucks when things go wrong during the Challenge, but I just reminded myself that the Challenge simply isn't a huge priority.

    It is, Carole. Thanks for stopping by!

    I'm glad you enjoyed it, Cathy. And you're right. The only way to deal with a book idea is to start writing it. :-)

    Christine, sometimes, those drafts are of value even if we don't pull them out again per se.

    Alex, I know all about that one. ;-)

    I also count my drafts by number, Tyrean. Thanks again for the shout out!

    Hahaha thanks Andrea, and yes it was. ;-)

    Rachel, and the nice thing is that once we get there, finishing drafts are a lot easier.


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