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Those words were not a waste

Yesterday, and this morning, I’ve been clearing out my writing folders. It’s long overdue! While they are fairly well organized, they are (were) littered with stories that simply don’t hold that essential spark. I made a point of reading through them all, just to be sure, and was disappointed that a lot of the stories I thought were pretty good were not.

Immediately, the ‘I suck!’ thoughts set in. It’s pretty natural. I was feeling low about the quality of my writing, considering that some of these pieces are just under a year old. I thought that I got this whole short story thing now. I thought I was better than this.

Then I was reminded that each of these stories has been part of the journey. They may not be (now, or ever) up to scratch for publication, or even for giving away/sharing with friends, but they have all been part of the process. The words were not a waste. Not every story can be amazing, not every story can even be great, and to expect that level of awesome from myself is unrealistic. (Maybe when I am getting eight hours a night, every night, and the kids are in school…lol). Sometimes you have to clear out the mess so that you can make room for the good stuff.

So what am I left with? 20 or so stories in my ‘trunk folder’, 5 in my ‘to finish’ folder, and just a couple out on submission – one of which I will be trunking when it gets rejected. There are plenty of other ideas floating around, and at some point when I have more time, I’ll get back into the habit of writing shorts on a regular basis.

At some point, I will also have to go through my novels and clear them out as well. I’m not quite ready for that yet though. I am firmly attached to each of my novellas, so they aren’t going anywhere. It’s a little scary, culling. It makes it seem like you have little to show for all that time. But I know, those words were not a waste.

*With thanks to Sadie Hart and her tweets to me earlier today*

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7 thoughts on “Those words were not a waste”

  1. I actually went through my novels not that long ago. That was a tough one. So many words that I felt were “wasted.” Except, I really had to look at them and go… I wasn’t the writer I am *now* when I wrote those. I still love bits and pieces of them, and they shaped me as I am today, but they’re not where I want to be as a writer. Lots of finished first drafts and partial drafts hit the trunk folder… a blessed few hit my “maybe I’ll rewrite you someday” folder… Now I have to do my short stories.

    It is a scary process, but every one of those drafts was a learning phase. It was part of the process. Now if only I can remember my own words when I go back to tackling my writing folder clean up. -grins- Thanks for the shout out, hun!

  2. I consider these drafts as foundation blocks of our writing, and that without them, we wouldn’t be nearly as great at writing as we are today. I know that in ten years or so – I will look back at some of the writings I have done today – and know that it was rubbish – but yet again, they are a few more foundations stones that I have laid on my writer’s journey. Do not despair, my friend. Clearing out is all part of it, and re-reading is all part of it.
    Yesterday, after speaking with you about the intended clear out – I actually did a clear out. A lot of stories that I consider my darkness stories (tortured writer prose) got dumped. Yup. Not kidding. Why? Because I knew that if I dropped dead tomorrow – I would not want people reading those random literary thoughts that I have. These are not the stories that I want to be remembered by, nor do I want my husband to read them and remember me by them either. It’s not good feng shui to hold onto them either. Yes, I believe that I will remember them… then I could potentially work parts of them into future fiction.. But I don’t need them hanging around my neck.
    Good on you for the clean up mission… it takes a lot out of us as artists of this literary world to be able to look at our own work with a critic’s eye. Very proud of your efforts.

  3. This is definately something I need to do at some point. However, my writer’s heart is still a little tender from breaking up with my last novel so perhaps it will be an end of 2011 activity after I’ve produced lots of nice new stuff. 🙂

    The words are also never wasted if you had FUN writing them. And as you said, it’s the only way to grow as a writer. xx

  4. Oh my goodness, I did the same thing last night! I read part of novella from two years ago, felt that while it was a nice story, it was destined for the hard drive forever. Then this morning, I had an idea of how to rewrite it, possibly even expanding it into a novel. One never knows about those lost words except that just as you said, none of them are ever a waste!

  5. I’ve also been mining the trunk file of late. It can be a scary place, especially when you read something you remember thinking was BRILLIANT and now see it as….. otherwise.
    Thanks for helping me remember it’s all part of the process 🙂

  6. “I was feeling low about the quality of my writing, considering that some of these pieces are just under a year old. I thought that I got this whole short story thing now. I thought I was better than this.”

    Goodness, I still produce clangers, and I’ve sold quite a few good stories. I think one of the things that demoralises writers is that it’s never a straight progression. It’s not like going up a level; your skills improve, but that elusive aspect that elevates a story from technically correct to great is never going to appear on command.

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