Wednesday, August 02, 2006

A Writer's Weekly Question, answered briefly

I'm not in the best mood and I really need to sleep tonight, so this will be a short entry - I hope!

Writer's Weekly Question #25:
Have you ever decided to throw away a piece of your writing? If so, what was the motivation?

Well, for starters, I still have this:

I'm pretty sure I don't have that story about the mouse from elementary school, the one in which I misspelled "cheeze." That early poem that ends, "Birds are our friends," exists only in my brain, unless I've blogged it in full at some point. And I don't really remember, much less have on paper, the religious blank verse I wrote in third grade (or was it fifth grade?).

More recently, I've certainly deleted individual words forever, maybe as much as a paragraph or so. But if you mean, did I ever throw away an entire novel or short story written after junior high school, then the answer is, I certainly hope not! I have two or three boxes, at least, of old writing. There are pages of false starts to old stories, manuscripts for "The Disc Jockey" and other stories from high school and college (especially Clarion) and lots and lots of drafts of what became Heirs of Mâvarin. That doesn't mean I can find the stuff easily, as evidenced by the years of looking for that old Mâvarin map I found last week. Still, it comforts me to know it's around here somewhere.

I think I told the story before of a museum in Chatham, Mass., where many years ago I saw preserved copies of some writer's work in manuscript. I decided way back then that I would keep as much of my writing as reasonably possible, for whatever value it might have in tracing the history of a particular work. Maybe nobody but me will ever care, but I'm glad that I still have pages of The Tengrim Sword from my mom's manual typewriter, and other historical and literary curiosities.

The underlying question, of course is, "Do you consider your writing good enough to be worth keeping?" The value of a manuscript or file can vary from one person to the next, one year to the next, one project to the next, and based on who is doing the judging. There are people who write very badly, and yet I'm not willing to tell them they should throw away something they worked on, especially if they out in real effort and the writing gave them pleasure. As for me, I know I don't write very badly. Even so, some of my early writing was at least moderately bad, and at least a few pieces were stinkeroos. The key there, though, is that it was early writing. Writing gets better with practice and experience, especially if you pay attention to what you're doing and analyze it as you revise.

On the practical side of not throwing stuff away, modern technology makes it possible to junk part of what you've written, and still have it available for reuse, all without filling your study with paper. When I cut any largish bit of text from one of the novels in Word, anything from a paragraph or so up to an entire scene, I paste it in a "bits" file. That way, if I change my mind later, I can restore the cut text to the main document. It diesn't happen often, but it happens, usually because the plot changed again and now the cut scene fits after all, or the old version of something just worked better than the new one.


I don't think I took a single photo today, so here are a few shots of last night's sunset.

Please note that the Catalina Mountains are north from here, not west. I always get a kick out of sunset colors that show up to the north, east or south.

Good night!


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1 comment:

Becky said...

That was a good question. I've never DELIBERATELY thrown out any of my writing...but, like you, I've been known to let things sit on disk until the storage medium is no longer compatible with any system I currently have up and running. I have some stuff on ZIP disk and just realized the other day I no longer have a ZIP drive. Oh well.