Diana had an interesting post recently about writers who threw away/burned and otherwise mangled their unsold manuscripts. I imagine a tearful ceremony, an open flame and a phone right near said writer in hopes that the voodoo ritual will bring the call.

Things in writer’s lore are always exaggerated. It’s been said that Carrie was rejected a bazillion amount of times before Stephen King’s wife plucked it from the garbage. In reality, the number of rejections was quite small, comparatively, according to King himself. My personal favorite story is still Cherry Adair’s admission that she wrote 17 manuscripts before selling.

Anyway, to answer Diana’s question – no, I’ve never thrown a manuscript away. I’ve cursed them, yes, but I’ve still managed to keep them all in every single metamorphosised state, be it hardcopy or file on computer. I never met a version I didn’t become attatched to and save each of them laboriously with the question of, What If, firmly implanted in the back of my mind.

Which leads me to the point of the post – the recycling part. Do you ever cut up an old book for parts? I have a mini-chop shop of sorts, in which, when I’m really, really stuck on a book, I start to think, hmmmm, maybe there’s something in book XYZ I can use that’s just so damned brilliant it shouldn’t be hidden from the world any longer.

In reality, when I go back, I find what’s there to be less than brilliant, but there’s usually something I can salvage – an idea for a scene, maybe, or a character or even a line or two. I think it all goes back to the clusterfuck mentality for me, the write-it-out-of-order-and-piece-it-all-together, way I work. Sometimes, just comparing my writing from an older piece to a newer one is enough to get me moving again in a positive direction, and sometimes I reminisce about what could’ve been. Either way, I’ll bet the old manuscripts still appreciate my thinking of them.

So tell me, do you recycle, or is there a place in your home where old manuscripts just go to die?

Steph T.