Do you save a new document every time you do a major revision?
Or do you write over the same draft?
I have learned the hard way that, even with minor changes, it’s a huge mistake to rewrite and edit over the same document.
I’ll give you an example with my current WIP, a short story …
In the middle of revisions, I decided to move elements around. I cut a scene, planning to paste it in another area, but I got distracted editing other mistakes I caught along the way. I cut more sentences, never having pasted the first scene in its new spot (or at least a temporary spot).
I saved over the draft without realizing what I had done. When I looked for the scene later, it was long lost, and I didn’t have the original draft to get it back.
This is just one horror story about why writers need to keep all drafts and ideas, no matter how useless they seem. Here is an article from Self-Publishing News that outlines all the reasons you should keep everything you write and never delete your drafts.
Keep Everything You Write And Never Delete Your Drafts
Should you keep everything you write? Yes, definitely.
Words have value, even if you might not think so at the time.
If you are a new, young writer, make it a habit to save and store all your writing.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a half-finished poem, an introduction for an essay, or a failed attempt at a short story.
Why you should keep everything you write
Every writer has a file of unpublished work, often containing many more words than those published.
But just because writing is unpublished doesn’t mean it has no value.
Unfinished pieces of writing can sometimes become a source of ideas for you later.
Two verses of an incomplete poem might give you the inspiration for a short story or even a novel.
I often return to my writing archive for ideas or notes.
It saved me a lot of work recently. My publisher is producing an audiobook version of one of my earlier novels.
But the story involves quite a few characters, as it is set in different decades and countries.
Because of this, my publisher asked for a list of characters with a brief description to assist the narrator.
Within a few minutes, I found the list and accompanying notes from over ten years ago in my writing archive. It saved me days of work.
That’s one simple example of the value of keeping everything you write.
Never hit delete – hit save
You can recycle most rubbish. It applies aptly to writing.
You might think that what you write today is garbage. But it has value, and one day, you never know.
Some writers keep their work in notebooks, files, or journals. But most writers today store their work on a computer or online.
Storage space is of no concern to a writer. A full manuscript for a novel takes up far less space than one photo on your phone.
You don’t need to be pedantic like me. But I have all my writing in date-ordered files, with sub-folders for every project.
Yes, I keep everything and never trash a word.
Nothing you write is a waste
Every word you write counts.
Maybe not today. But when you need an idea or think you have writer’s block, your saved words can help you.
Reading some of your incomplete pieces of writing can give you a quick kickstart. You might even stumble upon a piece worth salvaging and start rewriting it again.
I recall writing a blog post about indefinite pronouns, but I was quite short of my word count.
I dug around in my writing archive and found a silly little piece using only indefinite pronouns.
With a quick rewrite and a bit of tidying, it was perfect: from rubbished to published.
Keep writing, keep learning
You can realize how much progress you make as a writer by reading some of your old material.
When you read something you wrote two, three, or four years ago, you might have an oh, goodness me, moment.
Goodness, me, it’s full of passive voice.
Oh dear me, I used, in fact, six times in the first 200 words.
Oh my, why didn’t I write this in the second person?
But these are all terrific signs that you are progressing as a writer.
The best thing is that you can do something about it.
You could update and republish if you published articles on your blog or as guest articles on another site.
Even if you write a book, you can easily update your manuscript if you are self-publishing.
But if it’s an unpublished piece, improving it with what you have learned might turn it into something worthwhile.
Always keep your work, but never stop learning.
Revise, re-use, revisit
But never delete your drafts.
A Word or Pages document of around 30,000 words is between 130 and 300kb.
To put it into perspective, one photo on your phone is between 3 and 9MB.
A draft in a word processor is a tiny file. So keep all of them, and then you can compare your revisions.
When you want to revise a draft, make a copy, rename it, and then start work.
When you decide to rewrite a scene in a book, you lose the original scene forever if you overwrite your draft.
So if your new scene doesn’t work as well as you planned, you can’t go back to the original version.
It’s the same with your blog.
Most platforms keep a log of your revisions.
I find these revisions invaluable because I can track back if I strike a problem.
Stephen King’s first novel, Carrie, was nearly lost.
I did three single-spaced pages of a first draft, then crumpled them up in disgust and threw them away.
Luckily, his wife salvaged the pages from his wastebasket, and the story was saved.
All writers judge their writing harshly at times.
But that’s not a good reason to delete or trash your words.
Value your writing archive by making it a habit to save and keep everything you write.