Writing: Why It’s So Important Not to Throw Anything Away

After four years of picking and playing, I finally finished off Acorns and Oaks, my YA romantic adventure. (Kinda. Sorta. There’s a young adult, there’s an adventure. There’s even a cute Michigan boy, so I’m calling it a YA romantic adventure. I don’t know if it is or not.) I performed a quick edit and sent it on its way to my Editor for Life. I’d been moon-dogging over it for the last three months, and was elated to see those words “The End” come into view. Believe me when I say, as with anything in life, the marathon to those magic words gets easier with practice.

After patting myself on the back for a minute and a half, I decided to open my documents folder and see what else was lying around, waiting for a second look-see.

I have the first edit for Finding Cadence waiting for me, and I’m taking a Donald Maass class online for help with those edits. Instead of the weighty, supposedly breakout novel revisions, which are better tackled during the gloom of a winter afternoon with a spiked hot chocolate and a drowsy Boston terrier by my side, I decided to open up VY2, Virtually Yours Forever, the sequel to my smash first book. (What did I sell? Eighteen? Nineteen copies? I’m not sure, because I won’t get my Book Baby breakdown until the end of the month. I hope it’s enough for a cup of coffee at McDonalds!) After all, it is summertime, when it’s relatively easy to  call up the kind of sass you need to write Mom-Lit.

As with Virtually Yours, which was penned in 2009, VY2 was written during NaNoWriMo 2011. I won’t say it was easy, but it wasn’t too difficult to write VY2. I already had the characters in my mind. I know what they look like, how they act, their foibles, their flaws, their hopes and dreams. I knew what the stories were for each of the major players. It was a matter of sitting down to pound out a couple thousand words a day.

Easy peasy.

It has been six months since I stopped working on the book. I’d put the story completely out of my mind, instead concentrating on Real Life issues and getting A&O into first draft shape. Surprise! Opening the file was like uncovering a treasure I didn’t know I had.

Have you ever gone to the store and bought something, an article of clothing or shoes or a purse, put it away, and totally forgotten about it? (In my case, it wouldn’t be ladies apparel, but stones.) Or have you ever gone Christmas shopping in July, put the present away, and gone on with your days of lying in the sun? Many months later, you’re cleaning out a closet or a drawer, and you find that wonderful surprise waiting for you.

In my case, my wonderful, uncovered cache resides in my computer. I have files and files of writing that never see the light of day once I hit ‘Close – Save File.’ Add to that the articles and [dare I say] witty repartee I’ve posted online, and I’m left with reams and reams of opinion and stories.

I never throw anything away, whether it is printed, or saved digitally. Even my file for the VY dump is titled “VY DUMP” and I put in it anything that I’ve taken out of my working draft. You never know. I might be able to use a passage somewhere else down the line, and with my failing memory, it’s best to save everything.

I’m kind of flaky, the kind who misplaces memory sticks. so I also use Carbonite online backup. It’s more than paid for itself, as I’ve managed to have three computers break down and die in the last three years.

Needless to say, when I began reading VY2, I was amazed at parts of the story. I’d used characters I’d totally forgotten about, with dialogue I found mildly amusing. Keepable, even. Oh, it still needs a lot of work (A LOT), as it’s a rough, rough draft.

Writing is a tricky endeavor. As I learned with Cadence, even a terribly written manuscript has some value. Your grammar may be horrible, your plot might be full of holes, your prose a violent shade of violet, and your participles dangling, but it’s very important not to throw anything away. That crummy first try might actually hold a diamond in the rough.

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2 Responses

  1. I learned that lesson the hard away. I don’t throw anything away now, but at one point I threw notebooks of my old stories, feeling “ashamed” by the writing style of my younger self. Oh how much I regret it now.

  2. I know what you mean…

    A couple of summers ago, I unearthed a short story I’d written in my junior year of high school, one that won second prize in a city-wide writing contest. (This was many, many, MANY moons ago.) I’m in the process of putting everything into the computer, so I thought this prize winner should go in too.

    OMG. It was the most horrible writing I’d ever read.

    The plot wasn’t bad (could be considered dystopian by today’s standards), but I’d be ashamed to let anyone read it now, without major edits. Still, I typed it in, word for word.

    You can learn a lot from your mistakes. 🙂

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