Many months ago you ditched your unfinished draft. Writer / draft relations sadly broke down at 56k words. In your head the story was amazing and definitely a literary masterpiece, but reality was very different on paper.
There was something wrong with the draft but you couldn’t work out what it was. Instead of thinking it through you hit the ‘ditch draft’ button!
After wiping away your tears and taking a couple of deep breaths you placed your unfinished draft in a folder and vowed to never open it again.
After a few weeks of wandering around like a lost soul you started to rebuild your writing life; creating a new story and making some new character friends.
One day out of the blue you find yourself going back to it.
There are 5 stages to returning to an old and previously ditched draft:
- Echo from the past. You will be enjoying your new writing life; working hard on a brand new story and socialising in your head with some enchanting new characters. Your unfinished and previously ditched draft will just be a distant memory. Whilst doing something unrelated to writing (house work, shopping, driving etc) you will get an unexpected echo from your literary past. It will come to you in the form of a memory from your old unfinished story or you might meet a person in your daily life who reminds you of one of your old characters. Whatever forms it comes in, the echo will make your literary ears prick up.
- Denial. It really is amazing how something like your old draft, deemed as dead and buried, can overnight come alive again in your mind. Soon you find yourself thinking about it whilst sat in traffic or matching your loved one socks. You will tell yourself that all these thoughts mean nothing. It was ditched for a good reason.
- Revelation. Your relationship with your old novel came to a grinding halt over a plot issue. Back then it seemed insurmountable. From nowhere you suddenly get a powerful literary revelation. The answer to the problem with your draft hits you whilst hanging washing out to dry in the garden. Gasp! The sequence of events in your plot was in the wrong order – that’s why it didn’t work! You wonder whether the answer has just been given to you by some higher spiritual being. After staggering about looking confused and getting some raised eyebrows from the neighbours you realise that your old draft could be rescued. It will just require some reordering and a bit of rewriting. You roll your eyes and exhale loudly. Your mind recalls all the literary pain you went through just after Christmas when everything felt bleak and there was a growing sense of doom associated with your half-finished novel. All those tears and creative tantrums now feel like a waste of time.
- The Return. You remove your old half-finished novel from its folder and dust it off. After a few deep breaths you start to read. It’s not an enjoyable task reading something you wrote months ago as time has passed and your eyes will now be seeing what you failed to see when your literary love was blind. Grammar issues, typos, poorly constructed sentences and dodgy physical descriptions will be jumping up at you. Ugh! It will feel similar to wading through a foul-smelling bog! You may even find that whilst reading you are letting out some groans, sighs and a couple of ‘was I on medication when I wrote this?”
- Hope. There is hope because after reading it you decide that it’s not that bad. Yes it is smelly in places and there is a serious structure issue but it still gives you that old magical feeling. You just needed time (a lot of it!) to be able to see the error of your ways.
Never delete old half-finished drafts. Sometimes your creative brain needs time (months) to stew and work through the literary issues.
Have a great day!