Hello, Blogosphere, and good morning.
We all have failed. That’s what makes us human. And I would be willing to bet that we’ve all failed in writing. That’s what makes us writers. It’s a blatantly obvious fact that no, not every first draft is going to become a bestseller, and no, not every first draft has a right to become even a second draft.
So what I’d like to discuss today is where those old projects end up.
If you were to look around the documents on my computer–which you shouldn’t, it’s rude and creepy–you would see a folder among all the rest titled The Relics. In clicking on that, you would possibly be making the last decision of your life, as all the failure and misery and desperation and inadequacy buried inside that Pandora’s Box of around fifteen first drafts would promptly come out of your screen and eat your face off.
But my goal with this post is not to explain to you my failed projects. I’ll do that when they become successful projects…which, come to think of it, is my point.
I hear a lot of writers say that it is imperative to keep absolutely everything one has ever created. But then, I hear just as many say that to keep anything at all from one’s authorial past which has not resulted in publication is to write oneself a death sentence. So I would like very much to insert myself into that argument, even though I probably have very little merit arguing with these people.
As I hinted at a few lines ago, I am a story-saver. This probably has some to do with not liking to get rid of stuff, but for the most part this happens for a different reason entirely.
I don’t believe in bad ideas.
I feel the biggest target we miss in this argument is that the problem with the story very rarely, if ever, lies in its concept. For example, my three biggest past projects have been one following an illegal immigrant from Mexico to the States, one concerning a flight of a young Jew and her friend across the Nazi-Germany Black Forest, and one delving into the life of a young girl diagnosed with schizophrenia after her father’s death.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t really consider those to be bad ideas. I think the real struggle comes when I try and create a story out of them, whether the reason is expectations or a lack of knowledge or whatever else, all of which are quite conquerable. And those are all viable reasons for the level of inadequacy within a first draft, and all respectable reasons not to continue with the work.
But I don’t think that the correct or even just solution is to dispose of the work.
First off, there’s probably a lot of good material in that draft–I’m speaking to everyone’s, by the way. To get rid of any number of good elements to the story is to forget about them, and I guarantee you won’t be intentionally putting them into the next story should you forget what they are.
But then there’s my other thing. Maybe it’s just me, but I have no problem with distancing myself from work and starting over with the concept later from a blank slate. There’s no shame in that–in fact, I think admitting that your work was bad…AND GOING BACK TO MAKE IT BETTER…sounds a lot like that drafting thing we do anyway.
The story still can exist.
Chances are, the idea was really, really good, especially if one of my readers came up with it.
So I would very much argue against getting rid of “failed” projects. They aren’t failed until you quit on them, there’s still a great deal of potential left to create something fascinating and interesting and beautiful and wondrous with those ideas.
That’s what ideas are for.
Rather than being thrown away.
May you remain existential,