There’s No Such Thing at a “Wasted” Draft

I want to share you with a perspective that I wish someone would share with me every time I’m stuck in the middle of a draft (be it the 1st or 10th) and it isn’t working or the whole dang thing is feeling endless or pointless or wasted.

It’s a perspective I think I’ve always kind of felt but didn’t really see clearly until recently when I was sorting through old beat sheets for my novel, Amelia Gray is Almost Okay. And there were a lot of beat sheets. That’s because this book went through a lot of drafts.

I’m not going to lie. The writing and revising process for that particular book was a beast. The story changed so many times. I revised the heck out of it. Characters came and went. Plot points moved around like a game of musical chairs. Some drafts were never even finished and thrown out completely. And there were so many times when I felt like I was spinning my wheels and (shudder*)* WASTING TIME.

But as I looked back through all the notes and brainstorms from my process, I discovered something surprising. Enlightening, even! When I laid out all the variations of the beat sheets and analyzed what changed in each one, I saw something I’ve never seen before in my own work. At least, not this clearly.

I saw the evolution of my story.

The creative process in action.

My ideas were growing right before my eyes but I was so lost in the nitty gritty details and the desperation to make it all work, I couldn’t even see it. You could say, I was so shrouded in my own Dark Night of the Soul, I couldn’t see the transformation my ideas were undergoing.

I thought I was wasting time, wasting drafts, but really what I was doing was planting seeds. And with each and every draft, those seeds had time and space to grow and blossom into what eventually became the final draft.

One “failed” idea for the Bad Guys Close In ended up being the inspiration for an entirely new character backstory.

One “underutilized” character in a “wasted” draft ended up spawning one of my favorite scenes of the novel.

One “problem” that I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out how to solve, ended up being solved (seemingly by magic!) because I had two many characters in a previous draft and had to combine them.

I was shocked to see the connections that I never made while I was in the throes of writing and revising. But that’s one of the things I’ve discovered that I love about teaching writing. It forces me to look at my own process, dissect it, analyze it, study it under a microscope and discover things that make me even more in awe of the creative process.

It truly is a process.

And expecting it to be anything else only cheats us out of the magic.

So, if you’re in the throes of one of those types of drafts, or even just having one of those types of days, I hope I can provide you some comfort when I say…

There’s no such thing as a wasted draft.

Or even a wasted chapter, page, or word.

There’s so such thing as a failed idea, or character, or plot point.

Trust that what you’re doing is paving the way for something else, planting seeds for something beautiful. Trust that your muse has a grand plan for it all, you just can’t see it yet. And then, trust that when it does come together, you’ll feel like you knew it all along.

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