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Sunday, July 04, 2010


What Happens to the First Draft?

The news story this July 4 is that Thomas Jefferson didn’t get it all right on his first try! Seems when Jefferson was writing the Declaration of Independence he erased some words and substituted others. It’s a writer’s biggest nightmare. Imagine readers being able to compare your sad looking first draft with the polished, and often completely different, final draft. If Jefferson could, I’m sure he would swoop down and tell those nosy historians, “No, no. Don’t look at that stuff. Here’s the finished piece.”

Jefferson thought he was effectively destroying those mistakes by erasing words and writing new words in place. Welcome to the world of hyperspectral imaging, Tom! It seems nothing is gone forever.

Being a neurotic person(what writer isn’t?), I “save” any large sections I cut out of my work—just in case I change my mind and want to put it back into my writing. I worry that eventually I’ll decide those original sentences were brilliant and be unable to recreate their perfection. Funny thing is, I rarely look at the “miscellaneous” file where I store the sections that don’t make the cut. If I do decide to reinsert the original work I usually write it fresh. Perhaps having the “miscellaneous” file is more of a superstition. If I don’t have it I may need it. Be prepared. And I was never even a Boy Scout!

When a piece is finished I normally save the “miscellaneous” file along with the finished piece on a disc. Of course, now that I’ve heard about Tom’s dilemma I’m rethinking that habit. Do I really want people reading my first drafts and terrible mistakes when I’m a famous(dead) writer and not here to defend myself?

So how about you? How to you treat the paragraphs, sentences, and chapters you cut out of your work? Save them? Run them through the shredder? Toss them in a bonfire?

If you want to learn more about Jodi's weird writing habits stop by her blog Words by Webb

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Blogger Kristi Bernard said...

I am afraid that I don't have a misc folder for my cuts. I would probably forget that they were there. Instead I just rename a story I am working on with rev1 etc..

9:29 AM  
Blogger Dufflyn said...

OMG I am not alone! I totally do the same thing! And I never even look at them again. The "random related writing" file is a very lonely file. But better safe than sorry, right? If I am so lucky as to have anyone pour over that file one day, I think I'll live (or at least not roll over in my grave). At least somebody's reading. I'm writing my first memoir now and blogging about the process at It's tough enough just getting anyone to pour over a chapter!

10:14 AM  
Blogger Jill said...

Saw Jefferson's Declaration of Independence 'reveal' on the evening news yesterday and marvelled at what technology can do.

I've saved the majority of my 'leftovers' in a 'Writing Drafts' folder on my computer and reuse them as needed. Hard copies are also filed away for future use. I do a review after a few years and if I can't use the remnants, then I delete or shred.

3:54 PM  
Anonymous NJS said...

When I make major revisions, I save the whole document to a separate file. I include either a date or a version number in the file name. Hard drive space is cheap for word documents!

12:25 PM  

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