Thursday, September 2, 2010

Saving Every Scrap

This is a quilt that my stepgrandma made. She raised her children in the 1930s and 40s. Everything was used. Nothing went to waste. Flour didn't just make the food that fed her family - the flour sacks provided material for her daughter's dresses. She lived through the depression so she learned to save every scrap. Once they were older and there were no more girls to wear the hand-me-downs, they became this quilt.

I urge you to click on it and see how truly wonderful it is!

Like Grandma, when I write, I save every scrap. I'm a plotter, but I start out with a vague idea and write scenes to get my characters voices. I have a working doc that starts me off. Then I keep it open while I'm outlining. Some of the working doc may end up in the first draft. Most of it does not. Sometimes, it shows up in rewrites! Often, though, it stays there in the Working Doc. A fond memory. When I cut during a rewrite, I save those scraps as well. I have a Cutting Floor Doc as well. I cut and paste it there. Perhaps I'll use it later like Grandma used the flour sacks for dresses, then the dresses for quilts. I think saving every scrap makes it easier to murder my darlings, so to speak. No one is ever really gone. They're just hiding out in another document. I can be emotionally attached and still let them go. Grandma had the right idea!

What about you? Do you save every scrap when you write?


  1. I don't delete anything. Ever. You just never know when you might be able to use something again, and I've cannibalized from a lot of my old work.

    I was at a writer's conference last year and one of the speakers was telling us how he wrote nine books before the tenth finally got published. But he doesn't consider the first nine a waste, because he took all the best parts of them to create book number ten. Which became a bestseller.

  2. That is such a pretty quilt! Thanks for sharing. It's amazing how creative she was.

    I save every scrap I write. I'm pretty attached to everything I write even if it's crappy, so I can't throw it away. Of course, I hand-write everything first, so it's easy to keep them around.

    PS. I'm so glad you liked the Sky Always Hears Me. It's one of my favourite books this year! I'll look around for the books you've mentioned.

  3. Jennifer - that is a GREAT story! I love that he took the best parts from nine books. I'm trying not to think about how many he wrote before being published, though.

    Bee - I was writing everything by hand for awhile. I had a really bad experience eight years ago that led me to do that. I was 500+ pages in to an adult fantasy novel when my computer crashed and I lost EVERYTHING. I had a few handwritten notes, but the rest was gone. I was heartbroken. It took me six years to write again. I haven't gone back to that story. Maybe someday. So then I wrote everything out by hand. Now I alternate back and forth. I always have a journal with me because I never know where my characters will decide they need to speak to me (a crowded lunchroom, the train, my mom's). But I keep all of that too. I have two drawers full!