Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Dribs, Drabs, and Debris

There is definitely something to be said for throwing nothing away. I don't mean that in the hoarder sense of keeping even the trash, but more in the writerly sense of every piece of prose could possibly be gold one day. To illustrate, the other day I reopened my Google Drive (I often forget I even have the silly thing on two email addresses) and found a piece of fiction full and complete that I had put away years ago for reasons I cannot currently call to mind. A perfectly beautiful piece of work forgotten and languishing in limbo because I forgot where I put it. Now that I know where it is, I will be putting it back in the rotation of things I have out to publishers because it's too pretty not to share.

I do this occasionally because I write across multiple platforms and devices. Several years ago, I still wrote everything in Microsoft Word and saved everything to GoogleDoc, which is now Google Drive. So on top of that piece I found that was complete, I have other pieces that are unfinished. Wonderful thing when I'm looking for another possible avenue for my creativity. Ripping something down to concept and then writing it up again could be the key to having yet another book published.

So what do you do when you have a piece you've found? That depends entirely on how finished it is and how much you like it. If it's finished and you like it: Submit it somewhere or self-publish it. If it's not finished but you like it: Finish it and then publish it or submit it. If it's finished and you don't like it: Toss it. If it's not finished and you don't like it: Rip it down to concept and start over. It's that simple. No matter what state it's in, you can do something with it. Even if that something is just throw it away and make room for something else to take up your time and energy. I'm not a big fan of throwing things away, but sometimes that's the only thing you really can do. Throw it out! However, before you do, you should take some time with it and see if you still love the kernel at the center. If you still love the kernel at the center, you can take that out, put it away, and see if something else grows off it.

It sounds as if I'm espousing throwing nothing away wholesale, which is true. I keep a small file of ideas that I like. Some of them I've attempted before and failed at. They aren't bad ideas, but I'm just not in the right place in my writing journey to write them the way I want to. If I come back to them in a few years, maybe I'll be better prepared to create the world I dream up when I think about that idea.

I have a lot of debris from things I've exploded over the years. Sometimes they fit together in new and exciting ways. One thing is certain, I will never run out of ideas and that alone can be comforting. If you're willing to occasionally repurpose and retool ideas, you will have an almost neverending source of things to work from. That's what I love about writing debris.

What do you think? Should a writer choose to rewrite things they've already written if they haven't completed them to their personal satisfaction? I think they should, but that's just me. I want to know what you think.

Leave a comment below.

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