Don’t Open Your File Drawer without Reading This

A 5-part series.

How Valuable is Your File Drawer?

You are writing fiction and building a career. One of your valuable assets is your file drawer, your rejected stories. I have 2 four-drawer file cabinets full; plus, my flash includes many partial or complete manuscripts and ideas for stories that never made it to a hard copy to file. What do I do with all that effort in story telling, those past fragments that haven’t yet made it to print?

Appreciate the old stories for bringing you to this place. Writers develop skills as they practice writing, But often early manuscripts deal with the same ideas, emotions, themes, character types, plot types that you will deal with later in your career. The practice material in your drawers (or on your computer files/hopefully backed up on your flash drive) is valuable simply because it was practice material. You couldn’t be at your level of writing without all that practice.

Old stories can tell you who you were. I don’t know who said it first, but you should “pay attention to what you pay attention to.” Flipping through old files, re-reading old manuscripts tells you what you were paying attention to at different time. Think about why it interested you at the time and why your attention has turned to other things now. Does re-reading old stories bring back some of that passion and interest? Do you wonder why you stopped caring so passionately about that idea? Are you amazed at the topics you once wrote about? When you flip through, what catches your attention now? Knowing who you once were may be the thing that tells you who you will be tomorrow.

Wealth of ideas. Re-read your old story with an eye and ear toward ideas. It’s a great prewriting tool. Maybe something in the old files will:

  • Spark a new story
  • Spark a new character
  • Spark a new plot or plot twist
  • Make you fall in love again with a certain voice
  • Make you fall in love again with a genre

Re-Purpose your old story.
We’ll talk about this more this week. For now, I”ll just say, those old files are valuable! Make sure you’ve backed up everything!

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