Old Drafts: To Look or Not to Look


Do you look at your old drafts?

Obsessively, I save old drafts. I number the versions of my manuscript, untill I finally decide to name it something different. I create folders for OldDrafts. But I rarely LOOK at these old drafts. Somehow, it doesn’t seem necessary.

Looking Back or Finding What Worked
This revision is difficult, though. I like this story very much, but it keeps just missing. You have stories like that, too? So, we circle back to it and think this time, I’ll do it right. Today, I’m looking back over my shoulder.

Old Drafts Yield Strengths and Options

Well, this time, I went looking at the old drafts and found some surprising things:
Placement of Backstory: I had some good options in where I put backstory. There is a legend that needs to be told at some point. I know there are tons of creative ways to do this: have someone sing a ballad, tell it to young kids, set it up as the prologue. Nothing seems to work well here. Yet, the reader needs the backstory, the ballad. It’s hard to give out dribbles because it’s a complete legend unto itself.

In one old draft, I told the story early to some youngsters. And–I like that. It worked. I’m going to try that again. But this time, I’ll rewrite the legend itself to make it a more exciting scene and not just a narrative that is told.

Playful Elements. I also used some playful elements in earlier drafts. Why did I give those up? Maybe, I wasn’t confident enough to be that playful, to trust that the reader would get it. But I like some of the play there and want to work some of it back in.

Mostly, looking at old drafts has given me some options and perhaps, unveiled some hidden strengths of my writing. If you haven’t done it lately, open up some of those old files and look for golden words!

  • Karina Cox
    March 9, 2011

    Great reminder to search for the pearls in the cast-off incarnations of burgeoning novels. Merci mille fois!
    P.S. I just dumped Facebook for the same reason opting for a blog instead of a Fanpage.

  • Darcy Pattison
    March 9, 2011

    Interesting that you opt for only a webpage and not a FanPage. It is, of course, the time crunch to do both that is the biggest drawback. But supposedly, you get lots of readers from FB. Shrug. It’s a hard decision.