Breathing New Life into Unfinished Drafts

What to do with those 300-word drafts sitting in your files?

If you’re like me, you have a bunch of ideas and drafts saved in your word processor, waiting to see the light of day.

They probably won’t, unless you do something about them.

Some of them are only a few sentences, or even shorter. Some of them might look like this:

“The house was in complete chaos. Murder. Supermarket.”

What does it even mean?

I don’t know. It was probably jotted down in early morning, fragments of a dream I wanted to remember before falling asleep again.

But some of them are longer and more coherent. My mind was fully there when I wrote them, on the train or just before bed. Struck by a burst of inspiration and I needed to write them down.

Hundred-word long snippets, or opening paragraphs of something that looked much longer in your head. A scene to a novel that I have yet to outline. Or, an outline, but a rough one — one with the character named “MC” and “XX”, placeholders of their real names yet to be thought of.

They are not full-length stories yet. I can’t post them anywhere in that state, but they are the ones worth collecting.

It‘s always a good idea to save them somewhere, but what can you really do with them?


Get it to 1000 words

Then it’s a flash fiction, a short story. A 3-minute read. Good for publishing on Medium.

If it’s already a scene, then it’s simple. You flesh out the characters, describe the setting, and then give it an unforgettable ending.

Sure it needs some work before it’s publishable, but at least that’s a complete thing.


Write all dialogs

I do this when I’m lazy.

Imagine this: you are first drafting and heard all about “the shitty first draft”. They all tell you to go fast, type it all out. Mistakes, plot holes and all. You can rewrite them later.

Sure, it works. Guess what, what if you finished your shitty first draft but because it’s so shitty, you don’t want to look at it for another glance?

It’s possible. It happened to me.

When you’re lazy but still want to create, you probably don’t want to be stuck on the second draft forever.

There is something you can do: write all the dialogs first.

No dialog tags, no “he said” “she said”. No description. Just whatever is in the quotation marks. It helps.

Some advantages to this:

  • You have to differentiate who is talking, just by their words alone. Your character will look more fleshed out.
  • You can write very fast. Say, you’re aiming for a 2000-word chapter. You write 800 words of dialog, and that chapter is done. You can move on to the next chapter. 
    You can finish your first draft fast, and it won’t be shitty in the traditional sense. (Disclaimer: the dialog ratio is made up.)
  • Because the work is bare bone, you can do it any time. Waiting in a line? Write a few lines of your characters talking.

Later you can fill in the description.


Summary for a longer work

Sometimes an idea may look like a 80k novel to me, but I’m in the middle of another long project that needed to be done. I couldn’t spare the energy to work on two things at once, because then it usually means both of them will be half-finished.

Sometimes a flashy new idea looks so good it makes you fall in love with writing again, but you have deadlines to hit. It’s time to clear your head, and just brain-dump all your ideas for that project onto the page.

They are the notes for the future, and they aren’t going anywhere once they are on the page.

Tell that story in a few hundred words. It can tide you over until you can work on it again.


No excuses, now. You can start writing today. Create something, finish something.

Look through your old drafts, maybe you can fall in love again.

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