What do you do with old drafts?

I was doing some tidying up recently, and I have been having trouble deciding what to do with old handwritten drafts and unfinished writing odds and ends. Trying to decide what to do with them made me curious what other novelists do with old drafts.

So far I’ve been keeping all old drafts, unless they’ve been typed up and saved on my computer, but I’m going to have to rethink that or get a bigger bookcase if I keep saving so many notebooks!

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I have a similar situation. If you’re looking to get rid of some of them, type them up and then get rid of the notebook. Then you save physical space, but you don’t lose the draft.

This works for me for the most part, but there are certain projects that I feel a need to keep in their physical form. For me, it’s a beaten up spiral notebook, the pages literally tied together with string, filled with a story me and 3 friends co-wrote in middle school.

Even if you can’t get rid of all of your notebooks, you might at least be able to get rid of some of them!

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Scan them perhaps? That way you have less paper to deal with.

I’m kind of thankful for the accidental destruction of some old files. I couldn’t have deleted them myself,

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I’m pretty organized. I think it’s a habit that comes from an art/design background. Any old stuff is still very much around, in its own proper folder. I keep everything by event and date, so I always know which file is my newest draft.

My writing folder is, for the most part, set up by Project Name > Year > Month. For NaNo, I tend to have it under NaNoWrimo > 20XX, with a separate subfolder for Camp NaNo. I usually have subfolders for notes and reference files.

This way I can look at old drafts, notes, and whatever else I’d saved. Sometimes it helps, and sometimes I just cringe. lol

Of course, I’m mostly digital, as evidenced by the above. Handwritten notes I still organize by different notebooks and sometimes binders if the project is big enough. I don’t often throw notes out because I love printed/handwritten notes to glance at when I’m typing the actual story on my laptop. The only time I’ve thrown notes out was when I retyped them, but I usually end up printing them right back out, anyway. :sweat_smile:

I’m all digital, but have a hard time getting rid of old drafts. Sometimes I wonder if that plot thread I took out will be just the thing I need later on. I wish I were better organized. I recently ran an old draft through Grammerly because I misread the name of the file. I had two drafts in the same folder. I won’t be making that mistake again. Some of the drafts are versions that traveled with me that get put back in when I get back. I name the old one title-old and keep it in case I made changes under jet lag I might not want. I do make paper notes in various Moleskins that also have other notes I make when traveling. I keep all old notebooks. That’s half a bookshelf so I’m not concerned for the space.

I’m also usually digital and i’m just putting dates and stage of revision on my files and keep them thematically organized, so it’s not really a big deal for me, even if some drafts i’m never going to use sit on my disc for ages.
And as for notebooks… I love notebooks. I have an unhelathy amount of pretty notebooks in my big wooden box that is going to be too small in the moment. Lately i’m keeping there only unused ones and others are in several different places in my room. Solution: i need a bigger box. I don’t like throwing away stuff, even if it’s an awful slashfic i wrote when i was 12.

I’m pretty digital, but I’ll occasionally print a draft out to edit it hardcopy. I’ve found I’m more comfortable moving around paragraphs and cutting things when I do that. So far I’ve been storing all those folders in my office, but being an epic fantasy writer, I’m running out of space. (Those binders are so big :crying_cat_face:)

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Like many others, my drafts are mostly all typed. I made that switch when I got my first laptop (senior year of high school). I keep most of those drafts (even the ones I haven’t looked at in years) on various flash drives.

As for my notebooks, I have kept most of them. I did, though, just throw out a bunch of heavily damaged ones. The stories in those were either finished fanfictions (which I wrote almost exclusively in my early high school years) or ones that were long abandoned with no hope of ever being returned to again.

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I started writing by hand, and I have so many totes with handwritten stories that have never even been near a computer. I keep trying to make plans to type them up, but it often feels like pulling teeth. Scanning and then shredding might be a decent idea, but then it would be more difficult to edit (if that’s your goal).

If you find a better solution, please let me know. I would be interested in what that solution is.

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I am moving soon and stumbled on some old drafts and actually stopped to think what to do with them. By now most of my writing is digital and Scrivener helps with keeping old drafts straight. But I have a lot of handwritten notes I am still keeping because it took effort to write it and maybe I have forgotten to type up something? Who knows, but I haven’t looked at them in years lol And then I have some printed out drafts which I intended to edit on paper but then ended up editing digitally anyway. And now I am afraid to just throw them away because… what if someone reads them? (Don’t have one of those shredding machines)

I think there are some voice to text programs so I could imagine reading out hand written drafts instead of typing them up as being easier.


If there’s a lot and you want to continue working on the stories, there are programs that will transliterate the handwriting to a type.

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Mostly digital as well, so if i have some random bits and pieces written in various notebooks and notepads, i always try to get them to digital form into their respective project folder asap. I also have a file with some random one liners and sections, that act as my sort of “idea bank” that is great if you’re running out of ideas for current wip or want to find something to inspire you for something new.

Though i keep most of the handwritten ones, since they happen to be in notebooks that were used for something else i want to keep (college lecture notes mostly). But if they were on some random bit of paper and ive already typed them into digital form, to the shredder they go :slight_smile:


I got out of the habit of handwriting stories as a kid when we got a computer. But I definitely started avoiding it when I “lost” the extensive, handwritten draft of my first huge project. I still lament that I can’t find it anywhere, and I have a feeling it fell victim to foul play…

I’m mostly digital, and by that I mean I’ve got notes, drafts, and scribbles spread across five computers and at least ten different thumb drives. Which is to say I usually never have any idea where anything but my latest project is. I also back up my works, which means I have various iterations of the same project floating all over the place. It’s annoying as heck but I can’t figure out a way to get it organized properly.

I’ll find an old external drive and it will have some drafts and things on it. Then of course I have to start comparing dates and then I archive all of them, “just in case.” Ugh. I wish I could afford an assistant to organize it all while I’m out of town. So I can’t hinder the process with my fear that there’s some amazing gem of writing that will get lost.

Yeah, a voice-to-text program would be a great way to transfer things, typing up long things can be time consuming indeed.

I might have to see if I can find an app to try the transliteration out. It’d save me a lot of time if it ever decedent to digitalize things. Especially as I tend to start editing when I type things up, so I make it takes me longer than it needs to, lol.

I keep all of my old drafts (being a handwriter for my first drafts). And I print out each draft as I have them typed up and edited. I’ve had the unfortunate experience of loosing electronic files on a project I was currently working on, so I get really paranoid about not having a physical copy of a work, even if I do have an electronic copy. It takes up quite a bit of room, but I’d rather do that than loose my work again.

Keep them around forever, apparently. I have a 25-year-old notebook around here somewhere, but everything more recent than 20 years ago has been typed. The only ones I’ve lost were either accidentally deleted at some point, or in some proprietary Apple software that I couldn’t get them converted out of.

I don’t generally actually do anything with them, mind you, but it’s interesting to see sometimes. I’m not exactly ashamed of “hey, I improved my writing a lot!”

I found some brainstorming files in my Evernote that I did not remember writing. After reading them over I vaguely remembered the core idea I was working with, but that stuff was dark. Some of it I deleted.
It wasn’t even that old.

Virtually all of my old drafts are digital, so they’re scattered across various computers. (Several NaNo drafts now reside in relative safety on Google Drive, but I have a lot more than that…)

I like going back and rereading them, now and then. It turns out that even if my writing has improved over the years, I mostly have written things that I like and therefore it’s pretty enjoyable to reread them. Sometimes I rediscover something I thought was awful at the time, but on rereading it, I realize… there’s actually some interesting stuff in there, whether it’s a powerful scene or an interesting character or the germ of a good conworld.

I never delete anything if I can help it. Aside from the enjoyment of rereading, it’s also inspirational! I get so many good ideas from my past selves, haha.