Before y’all blow up my comments with “BUT YOU DON’T KNOW MY DRAFT,” hear me out.
I’ve been very nervously creeping toward editing My Nemesis, the hardest story I ever wrote, appropriately titled The Beast in the Cage. It. Kicked. My. BUTT when I was drafting it. It was the first time I’d ever written a multibook series all in rapid succession, it was the holidays, it was Book 4 – I was burned out, tired, DONE. I wanted to write something else. I tried everything to cure this resentment, from taking some days off, to rearranging/replotting, to skipping around writing the more exciting parts. Nothing made me enjoy this. Every. Single. Day was torture at the keyboard. I considered giving up so many times it’s almost a joke.
Finally, I did give up – on hoping to enjoy it, that is. I just got it on paper, slammed and locked the door, and walked away. I’ve been scared to look at the dang thing ever since, so I’ve avoided it for almost two years.
If this process sounds familiar to you, you’re the person this blog post is for.
I finally caught up to start editing Beast, and after much fretting and fidgeting and preparing to write my farewell address as an author and flee to Uruguay while this draft burned in a dumpster fire, I finally bit the bullet and just started down that road.
You guys. It was not that bad.
Now, I am saying this on the other side of finishing it (like literally five minutes ago, I closed the document). I cut probably close to 30k, I brought over some content from the next book to achieve the ending I had originally wanted (but was too fed up when drafting to make work). A lot got cut. But as terrified as I was to review this story and as much as I believed, two years ago and two weeks ago when I started editing, that this was the worst thing I’ve written in recent memory…it was not as bad as I remembered.
I’m willing to bet your worst draft isn’t as bad as you thought when you stepped away from it, either.
Think about that draft. You stuck with it for a reason. You wanted to tell that story for a reason, and I guarantee it has redeeming qualities. I promise you it’s not a flaming pile of crap. It probably needs work, yes – maybe it ends wrong, maybe it needs 30k cut, maybe there’s unnecessary drama or dangling plot threads or characters knowing where secret rooms are even though no one ever TOLD them where they are (whoopsie). But for every bit that needs tweaking, I bet there’s a line that makes you smile. I bet there’s an exchange of dialogue, or an emotional beat, or a fight scene that makes you grin and go, “Oh, that’s GOOD.”
So if there’s a draft sitting on your drive somewhere that you’re worried to touch because you remember all the bad about it – I want to encourage you to remember the good. Remember your favorite parts. Remember what you liked about that draft and why it was worth writing in the first place. If you feel like it, share one of those good parts in the comments!
Now go dust off that draft and start thinking of how you can make it glow.