7 Good—and not so good—Reasons Why I Shelve First Drafts

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group

The question being asked this month for June 2, 2021: For how long do you shelve your first draft, before reading it and re-drafting? Is this dependent on your writing experience and the number of stories/books under your belt?

7 Good—and not so good—Reasons Why I Shelve First Drafts

From the beginning of my writing career, I was always shelving first drafts for various reasons. They are:

  1. I start a new project with great enthusiasm and after writing the initial idea, I run out of steam.
  2. A new idea pops up, so I desert anything else I’m working on to pursue that new dream: see #1.
  3. Once I perform the initial writing, create an outline, and research everything I’ll need, I finish the first draft fast. In the process, I discover holes in my plotting, characterization, or that I need more research.
  4. A major life event occurs, demanding all writing stops.
  5. I’ve finished that first draft and am not ready to begin the revision process. I need a break.
  6. Because I can.
  7. Procrastination. I just don’t want to.

Some projects get shelved by design, the rest…okay only #4 gets shelved because I have no control over the situation.

The longest a project has been shelved and which is still in the running—23 years so far.

The shortest shelf time for a fully finished first draft was for 10 years, but the totally writing time in that period was about 2 years. Each time I thought I had a finished draft, I discovered I really didn’t. It was shelved several times before reaching fully finished status.

Smaller projects, like short essays, are usually shelved for a few days to a week or two, simply for proof-reading concerns, but these don’t count. It’s usually the much longer projects that get shelved for any real duration.

My Lauren Ridge romance novella series I’m working on had the first story published in 2017. I’ve been picking away at the remaining 6 stories ever since. I just finished editing and proof-reading #2, giving it 6 final reads. It’ll be shelved as I work on #3.

I’m determined this is the year I’ll get past all these first drafts that have been shelved for this series and publish the darn thing.

Only to turn to another project that has been shelved with either a partial or full first draft.

And, so it goes.

Shelved first drafts . . . waiting to be finished and/or polished.


Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting!


About Diana Stout

Screenwriter, author, former English professor
This entry was posted in #IWSG, Struggling to write. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to 7 Good—and not so good—Reasons Why I Shelve First Drafts

  1. nancygideon says:

    LOL! I hear you. I was going through my files and discovered a TON of completed or nearly so books that never went anywhere. Most of them were in a different format and took forever to convert and others linger, handwritten, in notebooks boxed away. I’d never have to write another thing if I pulled out those old efforts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Diana Stout says:

      When I cleaned out my files this winter, I was surprised to find certain files. It was like discovering treasure!! Like you, if I have never have another new idea, I have enough first drafts to last me my lifetime.


  2. Nick Wilford says:

    As long as some of those first drafts come good eventually, it doesn’t matter how long they’re shelved for, eh? It’s heartening to hear a book from 23 years ago is still in the running. That feels like a different lifetime to me – I was a teenager then!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Diana Stout says:

    It was a different lifetime! Wish I could say I was a teenager, then. 🙂 Thanks for visiting.


  4. That’s great that you can come back to manuscripts that you shelved for years. I have one like that and hope to start working on it again one of these days too.

    Liked by 1 person

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