• Rachel Paige

Complete that Trash

I've talked several times about letting your first drafts be terrible, not thinking, just going, and how everything can be fixed after the first draft.


I know as well as you that is easier said than done.


I'm working on a novel right now and I'm getting close to the end. Very close. We're talking the last 8,000 words or so. I can see the finish line. Except, I can't.

This is my least favorite part of first drafts, because it's the moment I have to start figuring out how to tie everything up. For this novel, I've realized I can't. The subplots I opened, characters I introduced, and themes I added cannot all be completed in the words I have left.


It is at this point I am noticing everything that has gone wrong so far. The character who was first introduced in chapter 20 who definitely should have come up earlier. The important thing I mentioned in chapter 2 and forgot all about. The subplots that vanish for chapters at a time, only to reappear when they're convenient for me.


In short, I'm frustrated.

The ending feels forced and messy. There's parts of this novel I'm proud of. Parts that I think will stay in the final draft. I feel like overall it's a good story. But looking at it from so close to the end is making me feel otherwise.


Because I'm also realizing how big some of the problems are. I can't go back and add or tweak a few sentence. I'm going to have to rewrite entire chapters. Restructure entire sections. Rework entire pages. It feels overwhelming. It makes me not want to finish.


But I'm trying to remind myself that every novel I've ever written has felt frantic, messy, and unfinished as I wrote the last five chapters. It's an ideal time to see just how crappy the crappy first draft is. I'm also trying to remind myself that those novels no longer look like that. I finished them and I've finished the second and third drafts and now they look polished. Neat. Tied-up. Well paced.


All the things that made me feel like the novel was terrible at the end of the first draft are gone now. So though I'm getting discouraged with this project, though I feel like 8,000 words is not nearly enough, I know it doesn't need to be. As soon as I write the last line, I can put the story away for a while.


Next time I pick it up, I know I'll be able to fix it. The revision seems overwhelming. But I can't revise what I don't finish. So, if you're in the same situation as me, keep going. Even if your story looks like trash, finish is. Completed trash is so much better than incomplete trash.


Completed trash is the only trash that can be improved. So get a move on.



Do you feel this way when you near the end of a project? What do you do about it?

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