Friday, February 18, 2011

Trunk treasures

I don't want to think about how much paper and ink it would take to print out the contents of my "trunk" folder. The fabled trunk - where false starts and unfixable stories languish, hidden away like the embarrassing relatives you don't claim. Tucked away in my trunk I have two novels. One is a hundred-thousand word meandering mess that was the first completed novel I wrote, the other is a fifty-thousand word mess I wrote for National Novel Writing Month in 2009. There's also several chapters of an unfinished novel that was my first attempt to write a book. Ten thousand words of this, five thousand of that, a handful of pages that never went anywhere. No matter how embarrassing I might find these attempts now or later, no matter how bad the writing is, I will never delete this folder.

There are hidden treasures in a writer's trunk of abandoned stories. An idea that floundered one month, or one year, might eventually evolve and bloom into a story with legs. A character too compelling for the mess you first stuck them in might one day find a home in a far better story. Little bits and pieces, images and snapshots, might break out of the trunk and find their way into that new book you're working on, a book that avoids the ill-fated trunk. Even though it pains me to see some of what's in this trunk folder, I don't delete it. Sometimes I open it up and mine it for gold. On those occasions when I strike it rich I know it's worth keeping all these odds and ends.

No matter how frustrated you might get - NEVER delete anything. Text files are small and don't take up much room on a computer, so there's no need to get rid of anything just because it didn't work out. You never know what treasures you might accidently be throwing out with the trash.

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