You Don’t Have to Finish Every Story You Start

abandon draft

How often do you abandon an early draft?

I have abandoned far more drafts of personal essays and short stories than I’ve ever completed. In fact, the ratio is rather embarrassing—maybe twenty starts for every finish. Sometimes I bore myself and lose interest, other times I find a fundamental flaw in my premise. Maybe most often I just lose track of time, and by the time I return to the piece, it doesn’t feel relevant any longer.

Writer David Ebenbach discusses the wisdom in abandoning a draft—in not seeing it as wasted time, but as an inevitable part of the creative process that produces great work. He writes:

[In some] cases I had to write several stories that were about more or less similar things (all about dating, say, or childhood confusion) until I found one that was worth sticking with. This observation was a revelation to me. I’d been worried about how many of my stories were falling by the wayside, but…I needed to write them not for their own sake but so that I could eventually get the right angle on the material.

Read his full essay, Try, Try Again.

For more from this month’s Glimmer Train bulletin:

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Posted in Creativity + Inspiration and tagged , , .

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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