Today’s post will be a short one, but maybe it will be timely for someone out there. It’s about the issue of a “failed” draft.
As writers, we don’t even like to think about the possibility of a “failed” draft: that is, a draft that, at its core, has multiple issues that require so much change and alteration that, if reworked, the story would look and feel completely different.
Better, yes. But still different.
The first step is to recognize that a draft is in this condition. I worked with the very first novel that I wrote for three years before giving in. It was just too cliche. Too melodramatic. I still love it, personally, for what it is, but the idea of working it into something that would interest other people? That would be impossible without destroying what I love about the story. I
couldn’t make it a “good” novel and keep the things that remind me of persevering through a dark time in life. I couldn’t make it a “good” novel without scrapping all the melodramatic depth that for me is so symbolic.
Sometimes, of course, a fix is available. Problems with a draft aren’t always this invasive. But when they are, we have two obvious options. Which to take just depends on you and your interests and your personality and your needs at the moment.
- Rewrite the story, making the needed alterations so that it’s not really the same story, but it reads truer to your original goals, or to new goals you like better.
- If that doesn’t feel like an option, you scrap the project and learn from it and move on to write something else. Don’t forget to steal what you can: settings, characters, passages of description…. Your work is your own.
What’s so nice about writing is that, if you feel too heartbroken or too incapable for any reason of working the overhaul right now, you can write a short story or two in between and come back to the project a month, a year, five years later. You might even realize you’ll end up going back. One day three years down the road, you just realize you need to do that.
I don’t know if that will ever happen to me and first novel. I doubt it. I think I’ll always love it for the sincere and pathetic mess it is 🙂 But you never know!