A lot of the time, we, as writers, cringe at some of our past works. We look back at the simple plot lines, the horrible dialogue, and the stupidest names and just want to chuck it in the nearest garbage can and kill it with fire. I have been there many times, first drafts and unfinished projects are the worst.
This weeks lesson is: Keep All Your Work
Sure, you may think it was the worst piece ever and that no one will ever want to lay eyes on it, especially if even you cringe at the piece you once loved, but trust me on this one. One day you will look back, maybe it will be tomorrow, or maybe it will be decades from now, and you will wish that you had kept that work, if not to look back on with fondness, then to see how far you have come as a writer.
I have several experiences with this. I have purposely thrown old work away and I have lost work unintentionally. Both of these scenarios are unfavorable, and when I purposely threw away my work I honestly wasn’t thinking.
The first instance, the time I threw my work away on purpose, was one of the last times I reset my desktop. I had limited space to put documents on an external hard drive and one of my stories, which I hadn’t backed up, or even worked on in years didn’t make the cut. To be honest, the story started out as a fanfiction, and I was in the process of augmenting it to be an original story, with original characters. The first chapter was awesome, the next chapter was hell. So in my haste, I decided to delete it.
Now, years later, I still think about that story and it’s potential. I wish I could go back and tell myself to keep it, no matter what anyone else wanted. I can rewrite it, sure, but it won’t be the original, it won’t have that same feeling it did when I wrote it at the tender age of 18.
The second example is unfortunately more common. I have lost a lot of work over the years because I didn’t back it up properly. The stories I’ve lost from computer error, or crashing or any other technical problem are impossible to count. This is part of the reason why I prefer handwriting first drafts, but more on that later.
The story I remember most, that was lost to computer errors was one I wrote my freshman year of high school. It was a simple plot, and probably had attrocious grammar, but it had potential, just like everything else I never finished. It was on my old computer, and somehow (after surviving an earthquake) it overheated. All of my progress and work was gone.
Unfortunately, even handwritten drafts are not immune to being lost or tossed. Currently, the first novel I ever finished is missing. I doubt I tossed it, but it is not in any of the places where I remember putting it. I’m hoping it will show up eventually (while it is still readable- pencil does not age well).
So the lesson is Keep Your Work but how is that possible against accidental clicks and misplacing things? It’s quite simple actually.
If you handwrite: Buy a plastic tote. When you are finished with a piece, or a notebook or whatever you write on, put it in the plastic tote. Repeat until full. Then buy another one.
If you type: Subscribe to a site that keeps a copy of your work online. I suggest Google Drive, but there are countless others. Evernote, DropBox, etc. Anything that saves your work online and lets you edit it, is wonderful.
Good luck and may all of your work stay where you want it to!