By Chad Corrie

This essay may be a bit too simple and seem like common sense, but I just want to put it up anyway to make sure everyone can be on the same page and understand the benefits of saving their old ideas and work. So please humor me if you've already doing what this essay encourages and consider it if you're not already doing so.

Every writer from time to time starts a story only to find it fizzling out somewhere in-between or ending on a weak/poor note. Some other ideas sound great but don't get beyond a few pages as the writer realizes that this isn't going to be that great of a story or they have no idea where the story is going. Sometimes when these events occur some writers would chuck these bits of ideas and pages into the trash or push the delete key in a partially cathartic way to clean the screen or writing desk for a fresh start. I'd advise you to stop and hang onto what you have written so far. If you've thrown them away or deleted them then go get them back–diving into a dumpster if you have to–so you can retrieve some useful ideas and potentially helpful fillers for future works.

Why do this you ask? Well, that is the topic of this little essay. I've come to understand and appreciate the value of keeping all that I write and store it away for potential future use. I'm really a bit of a pack rat when it comes to keeping old scraps of ideas and concepts for stories. I keep them all organized in the filing cabinet and on the computer, squirreled away like some prized nut to dig up later for the winter. I've done this ever since I can remember with writing and still have the odd story and tale from when I first started writing when I was twelve years old to prove it. Why I do this is two fold. First, I keep the old concepts to show myself where I came from and that, yes, even if I might not think it at the time, I am getting better. For this reason alone I would encourage you to do the same with your own writings so you can see where you have gotten better and where you still might have to work on smoothing out some rough edges.

The second reason I keep these old works is to see if they can be recycled later on into something else. Many times writers have good intentions when they start a work but the idea fizzles out halfway through or seems flat upon the ending or we aren't as thrilled with the end result as we once thought we'd be when we started the work. We then end up with a half completed work or a finished work that we're not too keen on letting see the light of day. We often think such creations a failure or a waste of time and space but you shouldn't throw it away for it could very well be a diamond in the ruff. The key thing is to set these unsatisfactory works aside, filing them away where you can dig them up at a later time for a fresh look that has now been afforded some distance.

For instance, about ten years ago I took an old concept I had been working on in some form or another to no great deal of success and revamped it with some new ideas I was working on to bring about what would later become Return of the Wizard King. Some other snippets of short stories I had worked on and then let fizzle out as they died a slow, agonizing death were later able to be combined and retooled to make some new tales that are going to publication in the not too distant future. It is because of these developments that I really encourage writers to hold on to their ideas and half finished or "lack luster" works, not letting them go into the dumpster or recycling bin. These pieces might have to wait a bit to rest and allow you to see the need for them but when you do find yourself face to face with them again you can often times see places to trim the fat and then insert them/adapt them into current works. I've found this out first hand as two stories I've recently written and didn't like too well served as great fill in material (with some minor alterations and trimmings) to a new novel I'm working on. This is also a time saver in writing in that the brunt of the additional material is already written and just needs some tweaks, which allows me to cut and paste it into the text, thereby making my whole writing experience that much faster and easier.

Because of this and other developments, I always look through the collection of these squirreled away tales to see if there is anything I can gleam or use in any new work. It's quite rewarding for me as I feel like I'm not throwing out my time, effort, and creativity but giving them an opportunity for resurrection when that opportunity presents itself. These extra spices in your cabinet can now really be used to add some flavor and save some time on the labor side of writing with any current work you're putting together. It's something I've found to be useful and even fun in most cases and would encourage you to try it as well in our own works. You may be pleasantly surprised.


Copyrighted ®2006 Chad Corrie. All rights reserved.

No part of this essay may be used in any form without written permission by the author.


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