Stuff and nonsense*

Lately I’ve been doing a bit of paper shuffling. Well, more like trying to sort out the reams of papers relating to my writing that I’ve managed to jam into a filing cabinet which is threatening to explode.

By nature I like to keep things, and with my writing I like to keep a hard copy to hand. When I’m editing my work, I still prefer to print it out, although I can edit online if I have to. I do try to read my writing aloud – it is staggering the things that you find after reading and editing a couple of times, regardless of how careful you think you are being throughout the process. Online spelling and grammar checks aren’t always entirely accurate, or they may not be able to cope with the context of what is being expressed.

I recently polished off a short story that started out a year or two ago with a ten minute writing prompt. In a folder I have the typed copy of the writing exercise consisting of about 300 words. Then I have a working draft or two of the story, with various markings and scribblings of the pen as I edited and tinkered with the work. There is a copy of the version I submitted to my writing group for feedback. There were pertinent points raised, and I have marked this copy with the suggestions and corrections. Then I have my polished draft of about 1500 words.

Why do I keep so many versions? Thankfully I don’t keep every version I print, but I try to keep a copy of the major edits, just in case I slice out something substantial that I want to reinstate later, or use somewhere else.

Another way to manage this electronically would be to save the various versions as they are edited. I have a vague memory of an established writer being interviewed and saying that all the sections that were cut from the novel during the editing process were put into a separate document so they could be revived or reused if required.

I may not need to go back and revisit the various drafts of a story, but there is a degree of comfort in knowing that I have it filed away. In the future if am stuck on something I can follow the broad strokes of my  working method if required.

What do you do with your working copies?

*With a nod to the song Stuff and Nonsense by Split Enz, with a beautiful version by Missy Higgins also available.

[Photo: detail of stained glass door at the Hydro Majestic showing a variety of styles]

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4 thoughts on “Stuff and nonsense*

  1. Stunning photo. Your filing cabinet and my home is packed to the rafters with things I have simply not been able to release. I have (and I say I, but I mean We, my husband and I), reached a point where it is imperative that some of the diaries, journals, notebooks etc etc have to go. Not everything written needs to be preserved, even when it means so much and some of the angst of the writing is in there. I am not a published writer, nor do I aspire to be, but writing has been something I have always done. It’s therapy in some ways. I understand your need to keep so many copies. Also I love Missy Higgins. Thank you for this post.

    • I agree regarding writing as therapy, and the challenge of parting with any kind of writing as it is such an investment of personal creation and energy. But you are right, it can’t all be kept forever. Best of luck with your culling, and I’m glad you liked the photo and the music references.

    • Thank you for the link, and I see I’m not the only paper gatherer around. The habit of reading, identifying something of relevance and retaining is an important one, but there does come a day of reckoning or at least a time when a reassessment of the material gathered is required. Good luck with your culling, and I like the idea of returning photos back to the people in them, or sharing them in a bowl as a talking point – very neat. Thanks again for sharing.

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