Making Time to Write Monday: Organize Your Writing Life #3 Become a Hoarder

This week I’m talking about being a hoarder and coming soon there will be a post about cleaning up your office space. Think they are incongruous? Well, they’re not.

I’ll explain.

I’m not a hoarder (my husband might beg to differ with you). But I’m not. And in fact, all it takes is an episode of Hoarders to send me hyper-ventilating into every messy part of my house and get it cleaned up.

But there are some things you need to hoard. You need to keep all of your drafts. Do not recycle them or delete them into the never-to-be-found abyss of the digital trashcan. How you hoard them is up to you, however.

Picture Books

When you finally get the picture book published—you know the one that you’ve polished into 52 drafts—you will WANT a record of your work. You will want to see what draft 1 looked like compared to the published draft.

I once saw the most impressive thing at a teacher’s conference. George Ella Lyon, the word wizard herself, showed us her “scroll” of one of her picture books. She had taped all of her drafts together into one long sequence and then rolled them up like a scroll. Then she had us stand in a big circle as she unrolled and unrolled and unrolled, reading bits and pieces to us along the way.

I was impressed because 1) she had the guts to share all of that with us and 2) because it helped me see that even Ms. Lyon writes many, many drafts.

I do not have a picture book published yet. However, when I do, I want to be able to show young writers the process of revision and make my own draft scroll.

One of my picture books and its dozens of drafts waiting to become a picture book scroll

One of my picture books and its dozens of drafts waiting to become a picture book scroll

Novels

An overflowing box of my YA novel drafts and revisions

An overflowing box of my YA novel drafts and revisions

I write novels also. I have a box of printed drafts for each of those novels, but I try really, really hard not to print them until I’m absolutely ready. In this case, I recommend keeping drafts in the folders on your computer. Every time you make major changes, rename the file. (I also do this with picture books). An example might be:

PERFECT MIDDLE GRADE NOVEL REVISION AUGUST 2012

PERFECT MIDDLE GRADE NOVEL REVISION FEBRUARY 2013

A Reason to Kill Trees or Use Up Hard Drive Space

Have you ever written yourself into a hole? You’ve revised and revised until you don’t even recognize the story you fell in love with? Well, being a hoarder can help you out. You can go back and see where you might find a glimpse of the love-at-first-sight before it started to feel like you were in the seven-year-itch phase of your relationship with your WIP.

If you have old drafts to go back to, you might, just might, be able to dig yourself out of the hole.

A Word About Rejection Letters

People have mixed feelings about rejection letters. Some people say BURN THEM.

I say KEEP THEM.

I don’t suggest you post them in front of your computer screen just so you can beat yourself up over them, but put them in your file with your 52 drafts. Then when you get published, you can say it took me 52 drafts and 22 rejections to get this book published (or fill in the blanks with your own numbers).

Hoarder or Purger?

Lest you think I live with too much paper (I do), I’m getting ready to do a major office purge. I’m not throwing away drafts or rejection letters, but I am cleaning up my act (or my office). Stay tuned, I’ll post before and after pictures.

 

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Comments

  1. Lori Mozdzierz says:

    Queen of the e-file here! LOL!! Never know, draft #1 may just hold the key to what’s missing in draft #101. Critiques I’ve received or those done for others also have their rightful files.

    Rejections are archived. All a part of a writers history.

  2. This is great for picture books, but it all became a bit too much when I decided to write novels too. I started keeping drafts then realized unless I was going to rent a storage unit, the novel drafts have to be judiciously weeded out!

  3. I have hoarded pretty much everything – drafts, rejection slips, bits of paper I’d scribbled notes on for stories/poems. Now, I try to hoard only on computer. I rarely print up any of my drafts unless it’s the final one (because it’s still helpful to see – and feel – a hard copy). 🙂

  4. Another good post, Marcie. I love that scroll thing. I plan to do that. That really gives me something to look forward too 🙂 I agree regarding rejection letters.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Last week I posted on hoarding your drafts, so I felt it would be a good thing to show you that I know how to clean up my act too. […]