Packrat or Purger?

Jun 8, 2010

This week, I finally got to the actual writing of my newest wip. For the last several weeks, I’ve been plotting, character sketching, and worldbuilding, which has been fun. But I’ve missed actually writing. In fact, I missed it so much I went ahead and wrote the first scene before I’d finished any of the planning. I couldn’t wait to delve in and begin writing this story. I reread my first scene, tweaked it to fit the final outline, and wrote the second. 3,000 words.

And they all sucked.

Okay, they didn’t all suck. Just most of them. The second scene in particular was completely cliché. It was 11:30 at night by this point, and though I desperately wanted to fix things, hubby convinced me being overtired was probably part of the reason it sucked in the first place. While I moaned sleepily about how I was going to fix it, he said, “Just delete it and start over if it sucks so bad.”

Oh. Right. Sometimes it takes a non-writer to remind a writer what the proper course of action needs to be.

So the next night, after much reflection on how to make things not suck (it necessitated a complete direction change in the first scene), I gleefully hacked 2,500 words out. The 2,000 I replaced it with are exponentially better. But I have a confession to make: I’m a packrat. I can’t just purge those words I’ve written right away. What if I need it someday? screams the voice in my head. I know I probably won’t, but to appease that voice, I never completely throw anything away.

Instead, I have a document in every story file titled “Cut Scenes.” I cut and paste all of my horrible stuff over there, where I can still draw on the tiny bits left inside that might be worth using later. By the end of the novel, I’m usually able to let that file go, and delete it completely. If someday I’m dead and famous, I don’t want anybody dredging up that awfulness for an ebook reprint with deleted scenes as a special feature.

So what about you? Are you a packrat or a purger?

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2 comments:

Bookewyrme said...

I'm a bit of both. For minor changes (you know, tinkering with the wording but not actually changing the scene itself) I usually just go ahead and cut it out altogether. But when eliminating entire scenes (or similarly long passages) I usually put them in a file, either their own file or my "Extraneous Scenes" file, depending on if I think I'll need them again, and what the writing is like.
~Lia

Madeleine said...

That sounds very sensible, because some things we write actually make sense pasted elsewhere and sometimes they seem good but aren't appropriate for the piece. I guess I try more and more to be a purger. It's supposed to be the sign of a good writer to 'murder your darlings' after all. :O)

 
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