Don’t Bury Your Dead Drafts

Noah Goats’ latest piece, in addition to providing a tantalizing glimpse into some of his unpublished work, also raises a great point about writing: often the best way to come up with a new story is to find a way to combine to seemingly-unrelated drafts. He writes of his book, Incomplete Works:

The book was nothing but stitched together chunks of three abandoned novels, but despite the Frankenstein origins, Noah was proud of the result. Evelyn Waugh had used similar methods to put A Handful of Dust together, and Raymond Chandler had stitched his way to two of the greatest crime novels of all time.

I find this is usually how an idea that I’m able to successfully turn into a story comes together. I generally have a number of ideas I’m working on at any one time, and at some point all of them have run aground and appear stuck, when suddenly I see a way of combining two or more of them.

I know I’ve written about this before, but that was what happened with The Directorate that ultimately allowed me to finish it: I was trying for about the fourth time to write a story about a space station with a space elevator, and I decided to make the protagonist a character from a draft of an unrelated story.

I’m working on a story now that combines elements from ideas I’ve wanted to do forever with a relatively new one. Once again, I was only able to produce a complete story after I said, “Aha! I can interpolate my old concept into this new one.”

This is why it’s important to write down and keep old drafts, even when they initially seem to have stalled out. You never know when you may be able to use them again down the line.

8 Comments

  1. It’s amazing how some stories that turned into dead ends that parts of it can wind up in another work. Just tells you that good ideas will find away.

  2. Quite so!
    I copy and paste whole chunks of books, delete from the original and store then in other files for later use.
    Recently had a lot of fun posting up a comic fairy story on my blog, it grew and now copies of the posts reside on a Word Doc, to be revisited as a novella.
    Best wishes for your next venture.

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