#58 - Never Delete Anything

I've learned a really important lesson this past week as I've been rushing to finish my first draft. Luckily, I didn't have to learn it the hard way - I learned it the awesome, amazing, fun way!

Like I've said, I've been working on this book for a decade. That's a long time. My writing has really (and, I do mean really) improved over that time period. So I have scenes from my book that I wrote yesterday, and scenes I wrote ten years ago. One of my characters used to be Julie, a young girl living with her parents in Idaho, who meets a boy named Todd at the beginning of the novel. Now, she's Kristen, living in an apartment in Chicago with her dad, dating a guy named Zach.

The funny thing is, it's still the same story. My characters have just grown and changed as much as I have.

So, the other day I was writing a scene, and I went back and found a similar scene from my original work. I didn't have much hope that it'd be salvageable, but it totally was! It's way better than what I was about to write. I kept saying things like, "I am so good!" At one point, I was almost singing, "I'm too sexy for my shirt!" LOL. You think I'm joking, but I'm not. I'm really that vain. It evens out the times I want to throw my whole novel on the dung heap, spit on it, and walk away.

Anyway, back to my story. I only had to twist and turn a few events, a line here and there, and sometimes only a word or two in places. And it's an awesome scene! I can't wait for my critique group to read it. :)

So, when you cut that chapter out of your novel, DON'T DELETE IT!! Put it in a file and save it for a rainy day.

I actually used a program called Page Four a couple years ago, and I took my entire novel out of Word Docs and put it into scenes in Page Four. So, instead of having a file called "Chapter 1" I have files in there named "Angela's Party" and "Out of Gas" I find it sooooooooo helpful!

Whether you use Page Four or Word or whatever, I'd highly suggest using this method, at least until you've written your whole first draft and you're just in the editing stages. It's just so much easier than wading through "Chapter Three" thinking, "I know I wrote that part about the blind date in here somewhere, but I don't know where it is!" Or, worse yet, opening your "Novel In Progress" file and having to scan through the whole thing to find what you're looking for.

Maybe it wouldn't be helpful for normal writers under normal writing circumstances, though. But for anyone who's on their fourth half-draft of a decade-old novel, do the Page Four thing. :D

And, just so you know, I've now written 2654 words in November. For being 1/4 of the way through a 50,000-word challenge, it doesn't seem like much, but I do feel like I've gotten a lot done in general, fixing up broken scenes like the one I mentioned above.


  1. That's a really good tip! I'm glad you shared. I know I have stuff I've written (can anyone say "crappy free verse poetry"?) that I've been tempted to throw away because it's kind of embarassing. I will take your advice, though, and hold on to it...hopefully no one ever finds it.

    BTW, have you ever read the book Bird by Bird? Reminded me of the "S.F.D." concept she mentions throughout the book. If you haven't read it, come borrow my copy - it's hilarious and something every writer should read (though, I have to warn, it does use language some may disapprove of.). Also, I TOTALLY agree with the comment you left on my post-election thing I wrote. I read it aloud to Kevin and he was like, "AMEN!"

  2. Good Job!! on your book and thanks for the tips

  3. I can totally relate - both about how good you felt when you were getting the chapter done, and about how sometimes you feel you've written so badly that you just want to trash whatever you wrote.

    Anyway, I'm taking your advice to heart. I am, sadly, the type of person who deletes things when I feel they're not as good as they could be. Like a lot of other people, I'm the best critic I have.

    But thank you for sharing that!

  4. I never thought of saving my chapters under chapter titles. Might be useful :)

  5. I like your method of saving. I just do the generic "Annie's edits." That doesn't really help. :( By the way, what is Page Four? Oh and I can't wait to read it for crit group... :)

  6. I love PageFour. I use it for all of my writing. It sure makes it easier to find the chapter I'm looking for and also to rearrange things when I want to.

  7. Josi saves files called "cuts" In some of her books she actually ends up with more Cut pages than she does actual manuscript pages. I am sure what I said makes no sense but it's almost midnight and I'm putting off my own work by reading blogs. I am evil. Congrats on your cene. That is awesome.


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