Hoarding treasured lines: recycling your writing

I had a look at some blogging prompts a while ago and wrote down a few I thought might be good to use. One of them was ‘what can’t you throw away?’. OneMonkey’s immediate answer on my behalf would be ‘everything’ – I am a hoarder and also, thanks to Big Brother, a bit of a Womble. Following in his footsteps as usual, I try not to waste things, which means repairing and reusing, and you never know what will come in handy.

Similarly I can’t bear to throw away anything writing-related. I don’t just mean scrap paper with scribbled notes on, I collect writing exercises (and blog prompts) that might be useful. I save half-written blog posts in case I want to say it later (quite often a similar incident will prompt similar thoughts, so it does happen). I cut minor characters or good lines of dialogue and put them aside to use elsewhere – sometimes I base entire stories around them.

The danger is that you’ll get a patchwork quilt, like the Beatles’ A Day in the Life which never quite rose above being two different songs shoved back to back. The key, I suppose, is the redraft, like skimming the whole wall when you’ve finished plastering the dodgy patches. I would recommend keeping the offcuts when you trim a story, particularly something substantial like cutting a minor character from a novel. It takes up a lot less space than empty 35mm film canisters and bits of assorted wire, and unless you’re a master of recycled sculpture, you’ll probably get and give a lot more enjoyment that way.

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2 comments

  1. Every couple of months I need to stop, collect the ton and a half of yellow sticky notes with ideas, character studies, one-liners, titles and more, and dump them into a file.

    Then, about once a year, I invite friends to come over and help me sort them. Why the friends? Because by myself I get so lost in the ideas I can’t finish the sort.

    Sigh.

    1. If only I was that organised! I have a file called bitsnpieces, with sections like ‘orphaned titles’, ‘half-begun’, and ‘ideas only’, and when I feel like going on a magical mystery tour I dive in and find things I’d forgotten about – guaranteed to brighten my day.

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