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How to Celebrate not Finishing your First Draft

How to Celebrate Not Finishing Your First Draft

mindset motivation Oct 16, 2023

Wherever you are with your writing, whether you’ve got several finished titles under your belt, a vortex of WIPS forcing you into a corner or you’re working on your debut, I want you to answer this for me…


You know the one I mean, the word-count continues to grow, yet the concept never stops evolving… 

Flashback to months before the world made an attempt at ending itself, the same time I decided to get my head in the game and actually do something with my boundless amounts of passion for engulfing the unsuspecting on a mind-shattering journey of words.

One of the first things I did was enter an outlandish idea for a TV pilot into a contest searching for stories set in Utopian futures opposed to the bog-standard, fear-inducing Dystopias that dominate the world of Sci-Fi.



Instead of throwing a wall of disconcerting text at you and hoping for the best, allow me to present a little timeline of the chaotic mudslide that is the inner realm of my debut novel, now to be a trilogy, into something you can understand, and hopefully, feel a sense of relief from.


END OF 2019

The basics of ETHERALL were born, and boy, do I mean the basics…

In a technology driven future, Ezmai, the young leader of a nature-worshiping tribe, falls apart when a hostile from the banished lands invades and shatters her perception of reality. The shattering was intended to come from the realization of their differences and how the conditioning of her tribe had led her to judge the outsiders without knowing the truth.

I mean it had promise, but the driving force kinda sucked…


EARLY 2020

I expanded on the idea for the second round of the competition, it was still nothing more than a treatment, no scenes or in-depth details had been written.

The entire episode was still based on the location of the tribe, I had a faint idea of the cities and wastelands around it, but nothing remarkable. The one thing I did have was Scav, the name of the disbanded; those not welcome in any of the hospitable areas. There was no antagonistic conflict other than the differences between him and her.



Surprise, I didn’t make it to the finals, I did, however, start writing one scene as part of my higher diploma’s coursework. One scene. ONE SCENE. 

The idea hadn’t developed much and was incredibly primitive. The world consisted of exploring the dynamics between those that live in the tribes, those in the city, the hostiles. Nothing else.

Forgive me for not providing precise timings, the lockdown apocalypse was a blur and my memories are very much fuzzed up.

ALSO: How to Tap into Your Subconscious to Improve Your Writing



I committed to writing a full draft of the pilot episode between coursework.

When I had the finished piece, I had absolutely no idea where I could go from here as I was foolishly hoping a Hollywood backed production team would pick my idea up and do the rest of the work for me (true story, I really was that naive). It was crude, I had absolutely no idea who the antagonist was apart from the injured Scav, yet I expected some rich producer to come and snap me up? Tuttut, I learnt the hard way there.

Plot, concept and worldbuilding had grown a smidgen, but were enormously lacking depth. We started with Ezmai hosting a funeral to a beloved camp elder, spotting the invader sneak in, confronting him and discovering he had collided with an otherworldly force that had given him bizarre injuries. She then defends him against the communities opposition and wishes to have him exiled to the City to be interrogated, before we end on a cliff hanger of an unanimous man arriving in search of the Scav; disproving his story and ruining his credibility. 

There was movement, things were starting to happen.


REST OF 2021

I came and went back to Ethereall through the final year of my course, working on injecting some new life into the plot. Without intention, I played around with a few, what I considered to be small details, but before I knew it the story had changed massively and I had to rewrite the entire screenplay.

Ezmai and the Scav are forced on an expedition to the area where he was attacked by Ezmai’s rival, only to discover he was telling the truth; however, when they return, the camp has been inexplicably incinerated and its inhabitants have been evacuated to the City. Ezmai smells suspicion and has no choice but to sneak the Scav in, claiming he’s one of them.

As I finished my course, a teacher said something that stuck with me. He made me realize my dreams of writing and directing a debut TV pilot were nothing short of delusional and it became evident that my path forwards was to ditch the film-making side of it altogether.



I received a shortlist for ScreenCraft’s Sci-Fi competition after spending an unforgivable amount on a tonne of entry fees to every opportunity possible. I decided to pack screenwriting in as well as my hope for film-making. My energy was spread far too thin and I wasn’t allowing myself room for progress.

ALSO: Love, Hate, and Inner Sabotage



The quest to turn Ethereall into a novel begun with draft one.

I translated scenes from the screenplay into novel form, but had to reinvent my storyworld slightly so the story could continue on after the pilot ended. It was here I finally had a clear view of my antagonists and their missions and how it directly related to my character’s and theirs.

I’m not going to go into any further details as we’re getting close to the real thing, but know this, the only major similarity between draft one and three (my current WIP) is the ending.



Draft one never got finished, instead I rewrote it up to the point I had gotten to, then wrote out a new plan to finish up with, essentially scrapping the first draft altogether. At this point so many new ideas were popping up all over the place that I couldn’t ignore, and it was too stressful trying to manage working in minute changes to an entire plot.


END OF 2022

Draft two was getting there, I was close. However I had been so on top of micromanaging every twist and turn that I hit a major flaw in not only the plot, but the entire foundation that my world was built around. Nothing made sense anymore, so back to the drawing board I went.

Which leads me to…



As this article stands I’m a good forty thousand words or so into my third, and what I am adamant will be my final draft and there is absolutely nothing I can say that will make a stranger be able to understand how much my story and its world has shifted since the initial idea back in 2019.

Ethereal has been to hell and back with me, truly through some of the darkest times in my life. It never went anywhere yet it grew and adapted slowly with each edit, until it discovered the form it was destined for.

Frustrated isn’t the word to describe how I felt when I realised that all the tapping away I had done was for nothing, as was the million times I had scoured over it, again. Thirty thousand or so words out of my achieved fifty were unusable, to be tossed in the bin with no hope of salvation, but thankfully I was able to recycle some scenes here and there, which did make things a tad easier, but overall, it’s been a hard graft.



I celebrate it.


Yes, yes, hours upon hours of working all for…. nothing…?

The more I train my mind to stop catastrophizing every ‘missed’ opportunity or ‘wasted’ writing session, the more I come to understand that in the world of writing it is simply impossible for nothing to be for nothing. If it wasn’t for all the time I put into the copies of my draft that didn’t work out, Ethereall would have never unraveled the way it did.

ALSO: When to Take a Break

It was through experimenting with my characters and their circumstances, putting them in places perhaps they shouldn't have been, writing continuously day after day, that I got the chance to learn more about my world than I could have if it had been pre-planned. Sure, it took a lot of time and even more patience which was already wearing thin at the start of the project, but now I can confidently say that I know enough about my novel to bring it to a final end.

Spontaneity was where the magic happened for me, when I allowed myself to let go of all the preconceived notions of where I needed my pages to take me, what might appeal to my audience and what might not. I no longer cared for my loyalty to the rigorous spreadsheets I had once relied on as an extension of my own soul and I embraced the fact that changes make progress, and progress, no matter how long it takes you to get there, is the only thing that can bring you to success.


Don’t be afraid to approach a project as if it is a stranger, you might be surprised.


If you’re interested in learning more about completing your first draft, you might want to check out Char’s new book, 'Finish Your First Novel: A No-Bull Guide to Actually Completing Your First Draft' 


F. Abika
Written for The Plottery

F. Abika, otherwise known as the hopeful dystopian, is a neurodivergent, all-round creative from Brighton, UK. Born with a head stuck in a realm that doesn’t exist, F has had her head stuck in a screen ever since the moment she was old enough to turn one on. Creative writing has always been an escape from a world that lacked the ability to understand a mind such as hers and after a lifetime of dilly-dallying around future pathways, she has finally settled and is working towards her debut novel Ethereall, the first of a trilogy.



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