One of those pieces of authorial advice I never really agreed with was to save all the deleted scenes and the bits that you started that never went anywhere. Oh, I could see the value for other authors – J. L. Curtis will write a scene that doesn’t fit in the current book, but does in three books down the line, and slot it neatly when he gets to that point in the timeline.
But me, I just wrote and tossed, until my Calmer Half informed me he’d made a command decision that I was to save all the notebooks I filled. And the scraps of files on the computer… it pained him that I’d spend a week writing something, then close the file out when I was done without bothering to save anything.
Granted, he had a point: only after he made this decision did I ever actually finish writing an entire book. But I still looked at this growing pile as an imposition instead of an archive.
Last week, I remembered that I had already done an “identifying common themes” exercise before, and wanted to pull it up from the notebook instead of putting in the time and brain cells to do it again. Unfortunately, I don’t remember which notebook it was in, and so I started with the most recent, and paged through the pile.
I didn’t find it. I would have spent less time just recreating the list from scratch than I spent looking for it. Ah, well. What I did find is that the books I have written and released often drew something, whether a line, or a scene, or a concept, or a character, out of the little scraps and isolated snippets of nothing in particular that I’d written.
I hadn’t consciously done it, but I reuse a lot. The bits and pieces get broken down, and some of each gets braided together like a rag rug. Eventually, research gets used somewhere.
Do you keep an archive of old bits? How do you use it?