Lost in Multiple Drafts of a Short Story

When I saw a TED video called “Try Something New For 30 Days” by Matt Cutts a few days ago, I knew  immediately it was the cue I needed to get back to re-writing and editing a story I’d really wanted to write but which I couldn’t finish.

I’m going to commit July to getting to getting to grips with that story (while not forgetting all those other July summery things like floating on water!).

which to choose?

which to choose?

I’ve written a mass of material – far too much for a short story. It has got too spread out and I have quite simply lost my way with it.

So the question is, how should I re-start? So many choices! But I need to find a new way to go about it.

* I know my protagonist and her problem (but not the ending). So should I just write the story fresh from the beginning and see how it shapes itself and comes out this time? Is that the “something new”?

* Should I note down the images and scenes that first pop back into my mind when I start working on it again – and assume those are the important focus points and work from them?

* Should I go through my stack of drafts and list all the scenes/ideas, and then try to order them? I realize that’s ‘old stuff’ but after all, what’s the point of writing yet more material?

* Or should I go back to my first draft and re-examine the clues and start again from there?

* Usually I write what I call “story stories” – that is, traditional scenes, dialogue, action, but this one seems (as has rightly been pointed out to me by a critiquing friend) more of a monologue. Should I continue with the story by learning how to work with a monologue? Is this the “something new” I should try?

I found it funny that on the same day as seeing the video, my horoscope in the Globe and Mail told me to stop looking so hard for the solution to “some kind of problem”!

What do you suggest?


7 thoughts on “Lost in Multiple Drafts of a Short Story

  1. Pingback: Freedom and Structure in Revising a Story: Matt Bell’s Revision and Rewriting seminar at Grub Street | Susi Lovell

  2. You’re already ahead of the game! You’ve written a post that has you working “with a monologue,” so you can tick that box on your to do list 🙂 One trick I sometimes use when writing short stories is to go right back to that initial moment of inspiration… that “OOooo that would make such a neat story” idea burst. Whether plot, character, or setting, that brainwave often makes for the most engaging starting point, both for the writer and the reader.

    And I don’t know about you, but I get so hooked on TED talks, or as I like to call them: brain porn. Especially since 18 minutes is usually the length of a scene in a typical… um… production (don’t ask how I know~wink). I knew I’d crossed some kind of line when I realized I was procrastinating about writing by watching a TED talk on ‘why we procrastinate’… sigh.


    • Yes, you’re right – I should have put an extra point giving me the option of watching more TED talks! That’s very funny about watching one about procrastination.

      That’s so interesting about the post in monologue – I hadn’t noticed! OK, so off now to get going! Thanks for your comments.


      • …before you dive in, if you’re looking for one last TED sponsored bit of procrastination…

        ‘Why we procrastinate’ by Vik Nithy (it’s actually pretty interesting)


      • I’m definitely going to take a look at this TED talk. But I think it’s more a sense of not quite knowing where to go next with all this material I have, rather than putting off the moment…OK, well, there’s some putting off the moment too!


      • Let’s both get back to work lol! Good luck with compiling/refining and blowing our socks off with the final version 🙂 ps.didn’t realize posting the link would embed the actual video – sorry ’bout that


      • I didn’t realize about the embedded video either so thanks for noticing that. I’ve edited it out now. And I DID manage to get back into the story so thanks too for prodding me onward! Not finished by any means but at least on my way.


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