Never Get Rid of Old Writing

Never Get Rid of Old Writing

Sometimes I write stories that no one will ever read not because they don’t want to, but because I’m not going to share them. I have at least eighteen notebooks full of handwritten stories that are never going to be seen by anyone other than myself. Most of these stories are first drafts of stories that I have since rewritten and shared with the world. Sometimes when I reread these first drafts I think to myself, “I’m so glad I changed that bit,” but at other times I think, “Why did I get rid of this part? It’s gold!”

Those aren’t the only stories I write without sharing, though. Sometimes I write stories that even as I’m typing that I know I’m never going to share with the world. These stories tend to be personal and deep or just character backgrounds that are never going to come up in the plot of a book. In the blog post Emotions and Writing I shared one of the deep and personal writings that I thought I would never let anyone read. That’s a good example of a writing that shows vulnerability, but that’s only one side of the unshared coin. The other side is composed of character building “exercises.” The other day, I wrote letters to my characters, either apologizing for how I’ve been treating them in their stories or ranting at them for not acting how they are supposed to in order to keep the plot going.

I also have a 25,000 word document titled “Obsolete Writing” where I put scenes edited out of typed stories. Some of the scenes were taken out of first drafts I posted on the internet, so some people have read them, but the majority of them are ones I’ve retyped at least twice. My husband encouraged me to do this so I never lose any of my work. Hopefully, one day when I’m all rich and famous postmortem, someone will stumble across these unpolished gems and enjoy them as much as we do J. R. R. Tolkien’s Silmarillion. 

Never, ever, delete or get rid of your old work. You may be embarrassed to go back and read it, but seeing just how far you’ve progressed is often heartening. Sometimes, the old versions can give you new ideas or remind you of old ideas that you forgot about.

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