Playing The “Too Many Drafts” Game (in which Everyone is a Winner)

Do you know this game? If you’re a writer, you do.

  • It’s where you write a draft of a scene or a chapter, but it’s not right, so you put it aside and try again.
  • It’s where you actually finished a manuscript, but it isn’t ready, so you rewrite it. Again. And again. And again.
  • It’s where you have six different endings or three contradicting story-arcs or sixteen alternate ways your hero could get from city A to city Z, and you’ve written most of them, and none of them are quite right.

Any of this sound familiar?

If this describes you, congratulations! You’re a writer. (Just check out the madness of Tolkien’s many extra drafts in case you’re afraid you’re doing it wrong. You’re not.)

The next two steps are where it gets hard: giving yourself permission to play in your universe, and choosing a final version.

Step One: Cutting scenes is fun, not failure

I know how it feels to cut scenes you slaved over because they don’t work. I’ve been doing it for years – since long before I became a published author, and was simply telling stories for myself.

It feels awful, usually. Like snipping pieces off a puppy.

Here’s the key: all that can change if you learn how to have fun with your work.

I was lucky enough to begin my writing adventure with fanfiction, which is all about fun. It’s done for enjoyment, for love of the material, not for financial gain or publicity, and so it’s so much more free than writing-for-publication.

In fanfiction, we give ourselves permission to play – and when you write your original work, I want you to learn the same thing.

This is your universe you’re building. What other people think has no bearing on it; it’s your playground, and you are allowed and encouraged to have fun with it.

When you change something in a draft, you’re playing. You’re not admitting failure failure all is doom, you’re realizing, ooh, this is even BETTER.

I know this sounds nuts. After all, your goal is to write things other people like to read, things that are marketable, things that will sell. Right?

Well… sort of right. Here’s the thing: If you enjoy what you’re writing, chances are other people will, too. If you struggle to have fun with it, that lack of joy will seep into your writing.

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Try it today. Take your draft (which one doesn’t matter) and play. Make some changes for fun. Whatever tiny change you make, enjoy it; even if it’s just the substitute of a word you love for one a beta-reader preferred, do it. It’s important.

Step Two: Picking a Favorite Child

You have no favorite child, right? You love them all EQUALLY.

Ahem. Some of your stories are your favorites, and others are not. That’s okay. Your stories don’t have feelings.

But you do, and you should listen to them.

Assuming you ever want the world to see what you’re writing, eventually, you’re going to have to pick a favorite.

This can be really hard because no draft is perfect. You may like section D from draft 12, but section G from draft 2, and section B from draft 6. And yes, sometimes you can combine them, but more often than not these differing sections are the result of changes in direction, and incorporating them isn’t so easy.

Here are the hard words: no draft is going to be perfect. The draft you pick will not be the perfect one, but it will be the right one.

[bctt tweet=”Here are the hard words: no draft is going to be perfect. The draft you pick \u003ci\u003ewill not be the \u003cb\u003eperfect\u003c/b\u003e one,\u003c/i\u003e but it \u003ci\u003ewill be the \u003cb\u003eright\u003c/b\u003e one.\u003c/i\u003e”,”tweet”:”Here are the hard words: no draft is going to be perfect. The draft you pick will not be the perfect one, but it will be the right one.”,”style”:”3″} /–>

Believe me, I’m telling myself this. I have ten #$@&%*! years of drafts for BELOVED, NOTTE, and no, that is not a typo. Last count, I’ve put it through NaNoWrimo five times. I have twenty-seven Scrivener manuscripts and eight different Word docs. I have notes in Google Keep, scribbled chapters I put down in physical notebooks, and numerous charts of timelines and characters, and absolutely none of them are one hundred percent right.

I get it. I understand the too-many-drafts thing.

But you know what I’m doing this time? I’m choosing a path and staying with it.

It has flaws. Some of those flaws I may not be a good enough writer to fix right now.

That’s okay. It has to be, because it’s time to birth this story.

It may be time to birth yours, too. There comes a time when we just need to call it done and move on.

Your draft will not be perfect because you are not a perfect writer. The draft to choose, the idea to follow, is simply the one that gives you the most joy.

Joy in the writer, joy in the reader. This really is true.

So let’s make this the year we finish our drafts together. I’m in all the way. How about you?

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