Before you continue, you should know that this article isn’t an informative guide to the art of dumpster diving nor do I detail instructions on how to covertly plagiarize a famous author’s discarded manuscript by digging it out of the trash.
I’m also not expounding the virtues of recycling for our environment, however I am going to explain how salvaging your work is great for your literary career.
As writers, we all have that drawer, cupboard, some hidden space where we dump all our work that we consider subpar, mediocre, or completely terrible.
Papers filled with partially written poetry, incomplete short stories, or the germinal beginnings of a novel lay layered often abandoned with disgust.
Those who don’t write—and perhaps even a few writers—may ask, “Why keep work that’s awful?”
It’s a simple question that gives rise to a complex answer that is increasingly complicated by the numerous variations of reply.
The reasons run from the emotionally reflective notion that writers cannot part with their work regardless of its merit to the simpler, optimistic belief that the work may be resurrected at some point.
The latter reason is the one on which I want to concentrate—the opinion that all our work has the possibility of one day being useful. Because I also believe this to be true, I want to tell you how you can find your next novel in the trash.
At this point, I am sure it’s clear that any reference to trash is metaphorical since I’ve already established that most writers can’t part with their work. They can, however, banish their writing to a dark drawer without further thought.
Keeping your work is NOT the mistake, forgetting about it is!
After many writers critically evaluate their work to be worthless, dump it in some hidden corner, they move on to try to invent, create, and write better work.
What if, though, some of your best creativity, ideas, and writing are not on the screen in front of you but still lying in that drawer?
Once you dig your work out, you’ll discover how you can find your next novel in the trash.
Read your discarded pages—the ones filled with half-started sentences, partial plots, and incomplete characters.
Your writing will be different this time because you are different. You will be able to see it with new eyes and a fresh perspective. Your viewpoints will be matured, seasoned, changed because time does that to people, especially artists.
There is benefit to allowing your work to rest.
Some of your work will, of course, still make you cringe. Throw those bits in the trash (the literal trash). The rest you rework, retool, recapture in a way that is enhanced, improved, altered so that you will want to take it out of the drawer.
It may be only a few paragraphs or a concept that you keep, but it is something upon which to build. After all, good but unpolished writing is like a dilapidated house—if the foundation is solid then the framing can always be adjusted, reset, and even rebuilt.
Another benefit to digging through your “trash” for your next novel is you may find ideas, inspiration, or motivation to move forward with your writing, particularly if you are currently blocked.
So, I encourage you to open that drawer or that cupboard and pull out your previously discarded work and consider it once more, breath life into it and perhaps you will discover that your next novel is in the trash.
Thank you for reading. I look forward to your comments.