Unpublished Writing – A Waste Of Time?
It’s been an interesting time for my writing. Last week I got virtually nothing done on it, having spent much of the week at an astronomy conference1, though I did have a couple of plot-related brainwaves with the help of a good friend. The previous week was far more productive, meanwhile, with two chapters finalised for the foreseeable future2
As ever, the second draft is overwhelmingly dominated by new material, with much of my first draft unlikely to be (directly) used. This is largely due to the latter’s slow pacing, as I’ve said before. To give just one example: the new draft reaches a certain key scene in 20k words, whereas the old draft took over 50k (!) to reach the original version of said scene. The result has been a massive improvement…in my opinion, at least.
I mentioned the above to one of my colleagues the other week, and he seemed honestly surprised by my attitude. I had spent months upon months on a full novel draft, after all, only to discard much of it soon afterwards. Little of what I wrote for that draft, modified or otherwise, will be seen by anyone besides myself. And so, my colleague asked me: had I not just wasted my time?
No. Of course I hadn’t.
With hindsight, there’s a number of ways I could have approached this question. Most obviously, I could have just said that the first draft is blatantly unusable: it is too slow, too cluttered, and contains far too many elements that change as things go along. Merely editing it would indeed be a waste of time, which is precisely why I’m doing so much rewriting. I want to publish this book some day; with that in mind, clinging to my old material would be a huge mistake.
My answer at the time, however, was slightly different. The first draft was, as I explained, my practise run – something for my eyes only, written to bring myself one step closer to going public. I needed this practice, just as a musician must practice for hours on end before a performance. Is practising a waste of time? I think not. Is it a waste of time to perform without having properly prepared? Definitely – and not just for the performer, either.
Really, there is no such thing as wasted time where writing is concerned. At the very least, a written piece provides its author with experience for use in future endeavours. For me, getting published is the ultimate goal; getting any particular piece published, however, would just be an added bonus.
1 The National Astronomy Meeting, in case you’re wondering. And I’m not complaining; I had a brilliant time out there.
2 IE: until my alpha readers suggest changes. So probably not long, then.