Jennifer Walkup made a valid point in her blog regarding recycling. Everyone has that folder on their computer or stack of notebooks filled with failed ideas and prototypes. I think all authors spend their share of time in that scrap yard of old works, digging around for something salvageable. I don’t believe it’s stealing, because honestly, how can you steal from yourself?
It’s more of a validation, proof that the time spent on a discarded manuscript was not in vain, that it had a deeper purpose. Like people who donate organs. The life is gone, but a part of them lives on through someone else. Its mortality extends beyond its original time span and someone else can benefit from that gift.
This is where the BUT comes in…
Don’t let soft-hearted nostalgia motivate your reason to revisit that scrap yard. Don’t horde your old work for the sake of filler for a new piece. Know when to cut your losses and start from scratch. Taking cool phrases, characters, and descriptions are great, but avoid re-initiating FULL storylines. If an idea you come across is too spectacular to ignore, then put a wrecking ball to that bad boy and rebuild the premise from the foundation, up.
Take a few prize gems here and there, learn from that experience then move on, or else become trapped by a thought scheme that has no business in your new project.
That is a sign of laziness, not to mention weakness on the part of the writer, and it will only lead to indecision and heartbreak. It’s the same as going back to a dysfunctional relationship hoping for a better outcome. Life’s too short to run around, trying to patch the old with the new, integrating concepts and habits that you’ve outgrown. Reflection is good, As long as you remember that there was a reason you dumped that shitty boyfriend in the first place.
There’s nothing wrong with looking back at old stories. New ideas can emerge from the ashes and develop in to something great. Sometimes taking that trip down memory lane can be a therapeutic experience, to celebrate how far you’ve come in your writing journey. But, nine times out of ten, you leave thankful that you left some ideas out to pasture.
Monday, April 26, 2010
Visting the Old Scrap Yard
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