THE BLOG
12/07/2010 10:44 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Making of a Novel: Resurrecting Old Drafts

I did some good work today, and one of the things I found myself doing was mining and old draft of my story for nuggets of gold. I had this particular draft because I recently cut 30 pages from the start of my story. Whenever I do something drastic like that, I rename the file. I also rename files to reflect certain critiques (i.e SomeoneElsesStory_editsafterBridget_November15.) This habit pays off, because when I remember something from an old draft, I can often find it based on the file name. My brain seems to instinctively know which draft to search in, and oddly enough, it usually comes up with a particular word to use in the search --- a word, like fireplace, that only appears in the section I'm trying to find.

I cut 30 pages because I realized that my entire opening was all backstory -- which is to say that it was boring. Readers don't need to know all the stuff I know about my characters; they only need to know what's necessary to follow the story. So I cut to the chase, as they say. But while I was in the midst of re-imagining my opening, I found ways to weave in bits of the material I cut -- and in this iteration, it worked; it was necessary.

So I went back and pulled a sentence here, and a paragraph there, and although it wasn't a lot from a page-count perspective, it felt very good -- like the work I had done and lost wasn't really lost at all.

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