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View Full Version : Have you ever destroyed your own unpubbed work?



moth
12-04-2006, 05:53 PM
I mean humiliating stuff, stuff that's not who you are anymore. I have a couple of old notebooks of stories/notes/ideas that now make me cringe. The thought of burning them has crossed my mind, but... *unsure*

Bubastes
12-04-2006, 05:59 PM
Yes. Plenty of it. When I was in my 20s, I burned nearly everything I'd written since I was 10. No regrets -- I consider all that writing "training" (a big chunk of my requisite crappy one million words. :) )

Kudra
12-04-2006, 06:00 PM
Yes. And if I had to again, I wouldn't.

We're constantly changing. That was you at one given point in time. Of course you're not the same person. Five years later, you'll look back on work you're doing now and wonder if you're still the same person who wrote it. You won't be. You'd have changed.

You'll constantly change. And your work will always continue to reflect who you are at a given point of time. Be proud of it, even if it embarrases you.

Put it away. Don't look at it. But don't destroy it.

TrainofThought
12-04-2006, 07:03 PM
I mean humiliating stuff, stuff that's not who you are anymore. I have a couple of old notebooks of stories/notes/ideas that now make me cringe. The thought of burning them has crossed my mind, but... *unsure*No. Even though past writing is no longer who I am it’s a part of me, and shows how I’ve grown as a person - my history. When you throw away your heritage/history that’s when you begin to lose yourself. My opinion is to hold onto parts of you that no longer exist because they embody who you were and who you are now. Just my two cents.

TrickyFiction
12-04-2006, 07:19 PM
I keep all of it. You never know what might be salvageable in the future.

janetbellinger
12-04-2006, 07:20 PM
I've destroyed most of my previous stuff - an 80,000 word YA novel, dozens of short stories and unfinished novels.s

victoriastrauss
12-04-2006, 07:25 PM
We're constantly changing. That was you at one given point in time. Of course you're not the same person. Five years later, you'll look back on work you're doing now and wonder if you're still the same person who wrote it. You won't be. You'd have changed.

You'll constantly change. And your work will always continue to reflect who you are at a given point of time. Be proud of it, even if it embarrases you.

Put it away. Don't look at it. But don't destroy it.Very well said! This is exactly why I've kept pretty much everything I've ever written.

- Victoria

FergieC
12-04-2006, 07:34 PM
I've got some horribly embarassing stuff that I wrote when I was late teens / early 20s. I've almost destroyed it a couple of times because it makes me cringe. But the great thing is I've actually managed to use some of it more recently in helping to develop immature, opinionated or generally bizarre characters. So don't chuck it away.

Who you once were, or what you once thought, might make you cringe, but that person is still of a part of you, just like your childhood memories are. It's all good to draw on later!

I'm generally more tempted to burn the current stuff actually...

Southern_girl29
12-04-2006, 07:39 PM
I've destroyed some and kept others. I have a journal I wrote in while I was in high school that I will keep forever. Some of my short stories from that time have gotten lost along the way. I did destroy the first novel I ever wrote. It was horrible, and it wasn't even salvageable. I am going to rewrite it one of these days, but it won't even look like a shell of it once was.

Stew21
12-04-2006, 07:46 PM
I have things that I would never show anyone, of which I'm not proud, but have resisted the urge to delete. Surprisingly, some of it is salvagable and I'll scavenge piece of it and use it in other places. Some of it will never be improved upon and I have chosen to move on.
Don't destroy it. Why would you? What purpose does it serve to get rid of it?It doesn't change the fact that you wrote it. You don't have to consider it part of you "body of work". Right?
Sometimes the urge is overwhelming to get rid of it, but I try to get out of the mindset by writing something else of which I can be proud.
I consider it a "you've come a long way, baby" moment when I write something better. It shows me how far I've come, and mostly I never read that stuff anyway, but on the occasion that I do, I'll steal a piece of it, make it better and use it somewhere else.

Higgins
12-04-2006, 07:46 PM
I mean humiliating stuff, stuff that's not who you are anymore. I have a couple of old notebooks of stories/notes/ideas that now make me cringe. The thought of burning them has crossed my mind, but... *unsure*


I never have. Once every few years I find another boxed never-subbed novel in the attic. They are usually worth a few laughs. I can't imagine throwing them away.

Kate Thornton
12-04-2006, 07:46 PM
I keep it all, unless I lose it - lost a bunch of stuff on some 5-1/4" floppies I forgot about...and some notebooks that got tossed by mistake.

But I keep it all - there were reasons I wrote what and how I did at that time. I like to see I have improved.

FergieC
12-04-2006, 07:54 PM
I know one guy who has a ceremonial burning of everything he's written over the year on December the 27th every year, with a crate of beer. I never quite understood that. He invites loads of folk round and makes it a party. I've always found the whole thing kind of freaky, and always find a reason to decline the invitation.

Stew21
12-04-2006, 08:04 PM
Kevin, you really have to stop doing that! :)
I hate that you do that. STOP IT!

Melissa_Marr
12-04-2006, 08:23 PM
Until just recently, I destroyed (shredded, tossed in fireplace, or threw away) almost everything I've ever written--sometimes as soon as it was revised to completion. Revise, find it finished, then shred. It's like molting, sloughing old skin: it's soothing in the end.

Rather than trap the words in the wrong form, I like to destroy the pages so the words can re-form in a better order. It's not for everyone, but it's worked out beautifully for me. If there are bits of a text that are worth saving, I may excerpt it, but usually I find straight-up deletion & destruction very energizing.

Stew21
12-04-2006, 08:33 PM
Answer #1: Because.
Answer #2: None.

I do it just to do it. I get a lot out of getting the bones down...editing it to final copy. I don't need the rest. Sometimes I get stuff published...but to date I've had no desire to attempt to get any of my manuscripts published. Maybe the day will come, but probably not.

I have painted for almost 30 years now. I have spells where I will paint all my finished canvasses black. The stuff I write and paint isn't mine...it comes up from the creativity well, I grab onto it and throw it onto paper, screen or canvas. Then it doesn't really matter what happens next. I often throw it back into the void from which it came. Ie...DELETE, DELETE, DELETE. Somebody else can find it floating in the void...grist for their mill.

But it makes me sad that what I KNOW is wonderful writing isn't being shared. People would love to read your work and you don't give them the opportunity. consider, that the publishing isn't for YOU it is for other people to have that experience.
You're taking your vision and story away from others everytime you delete work that is publishable. Makes me sad, Kevadelic. Think of your favorite books, what if those authors had not shared that experience with you? that fulfilling experience you get from reading wonderful fiction would be gone.

mistri
12-04-2006, 08:37 PM
I don't get rid of anything now, but I really regret losing all the stories I wrote when I was thirteen. I didn't destroy them, but my family changed computer systems (from Amiga to PC, I recall) and I just wasn't savvy enough to transfer anything, and the printouts got lost. I'm sure the stories weren't well written, as such, but I think they had some good ideas. I'd love the chance to read them again.

scarletpeaches
12-04-2006, 08:44 PM
OMG and OKAY. This thread was made for me. I destroy almost everything eventually. I don't care if I think it's good or bad. I have deleted full manuscripts without blinking. I'm just that kinda crazy. No reason. Delete, delete, delete. I deleted one that an agent was interested in. I just don't care.

Oh god.

*cries*

Stew21
12-04-2006, 08:48 PM
Oh god.

*cries*

SEE Kevin! it isn't just me!

Stew21
12-04-2006, 08:50 PM
It isn't just you, what?

**Looks around. Tries to figure it all out?**

that is sad that you delete! :tongue

Stew21
12-04-2006, 08:53 PM
As long as I get glimpses of these beauties before they go back to the darkness of the well, I'll be ok with their lack of permanence, Kev.

Stew21
12-04-2006, 09:31 PM
Then we're all good.

;)

FergieC
12-04-2006, 09:36 PM
She wore the most atrocious eye glasses I have ever seen. I mean, they made her a spectacle! I could not, in good conscience, place my manuscript with an agent who wore such monstrosities.

:Thumbs:

I like that. It's a great reason for burning a manuscript.

moth
12-04-2006, 09:43 PM
Wow, I didn't expect so many responses! Thank you for all your input, you've given me lots to think about.

What purpose would it serve to destroy them? -- To make sure no one ever sees them. Especially family. Those stories are so Mary Sue, cliche, badly constructed, cardboard characters, etc. that I think I would faint dead away if my family ever saw them. (And to think I once tried to get some of them published...gah!)

Kevin, I know what you mean about it being easy to delete things. The delete key works magic for me in my writing. However I never delete whole novel mss and I'd never delete one an agent was interested in, so I don't know if you're a lot braver than me or...well I'll just stop there. ;)

Thank you all for sharing how you felt about destroying them. I think that's the part that helps me the most.

FergieC
12-04-2006, 09:46 PM
To make sure no one ever sees them. Especially family.

That's the one thing that worries me. It's all well and good keeping all your old stuff so you can go back over it. But I always worry about my family having to sludge through it all if I drop dead tomorrow. I'd be turning in my grave thinking about anyone else reading all that tosh.

WildScribe
12-04-2006, 09:54 PM
Fergie, agreed!

I have most of my old stuff... on an old dead laptop with no batteries. It is still accessible... kinda. But mostly not. ONE DAY! I will find a power cord that works with it and download all of that stuff... but not today.

Simon Woodhouse
12-04-2006, 10:03 PM
I haven't destroyed any of the fiction I've written, but in my teens and early twenties I did write the most awful poetry. Luckily, none of it will ever come back to haunt me, as it's all rotting at the bottom of a land-fill somewhere in the South of England.

moth
12-04-2006, 10:07 PM
See, I wouldn't even trust it to a landfill. If I destroy anything it's going to be by fire. But I'm paranoid...

mooncars
12-04-2006, 10:15 PM
Unintentionally. That delete button has done me in before, as well as the save prompt, when I click the wrong option.

Some of the stuff I did when I was an alcoholic is too hard for me to read, but I don't toss it. Maybe someday.

scarletpeaches
12-04-2006, 11:05 PM
Relax, ScarScar. I think I explained this one to you before. She wore the most atrocious eye glasses I have ever seen. I mean, they made her a spectacle! I could not, in good conscience, place my manuscript with an agent who wore such monstrosities.

But she wore such adorable socks! And who could turn down an agent who wore leiderhosen?

jamiehall
12-04-2006, 11:44 PM
I've never destroyed any of it (although I have failed to archive much of the Internet stuff, such as newsgroup posts).

However, nearly everything I wrote before coming to college is gone because my father took it and has always refused to give it back. Did he destroy it? I don't know, but since I haven't seen any of it since and I never expect to see it again, then it probably counts as destroyed as far as I'm concerned.

Shadow_Ferret
12-04-2006, 11:49 PM
I burned a whole bunch of stuff in a fit of drunken melancholy 20 years ago.

I regret it. I believe everything is salvagable.

MidnightMuse
12-04-2006, 11:55 PM
As embarassing as some of my older stuff is, I've never been able to destroy it. I just stuff it away in a dark corner and avert my eyes whenever I walk by.

Oh, except for the . . . dirty stuff a few years back. That got burned :D

Carrie in PA
12-04-2006, 11:58 PM
I've only destroyed old journals. I wrote some things that I would rather people not find after I'm dead and gone.

Fiction? Sure, some of it's bad, but that doesn't mean it deserves a firey death.

Soccer Mom
12-04-2006, 11:59 PM
Yes, I have destroyed some of my old writing. There was nothing salvageble there. Seriously. I'm not sorry that I wrote it, but it isn't worthy of ever seeing the light again. I learned as I wrote it. I've actually kept my first attempts from my childhood and as a teen. It's the stuff from my early twenties that got junked. Yikes. Showing my age now.

allion
12-05-2006, 12:23 AM
I did toss the first book I wrote. It was awful. I was 14 or 15 when I wrote it (not sure).

Since then, I have kept most of the stuff I've done, even the dreck. I just can't part with it. And yep, I have old journals and diaries hidden away that are probably suitable to blackmail me with, but I can't part with them either.

I'm a packrat.

Karen

engmajor2005
12-05-2006, 02:09 AM
I destroyed everything that dealt with a certain bad relationship of the romantic variety that I had. I shredded and tossed the poems, and any journal entries (I tried keeping a "I did this today" journal) were whisked away by some glue and the facing pages.

But other than that, I keep it all. I deleted some stuff by accident importing it to a new computer, but I don't purposefully delete anything; unless it's less than a page and not designed to be flash fiction. If I can't go over a page without hitting a block, then it's gone...eventually.

moth
12-05-2006, 03:07 AM
Yes, I have destroyed some of my old writing. There was nothing salvageble there. Seriously. I'm not sorry that I wrote it, but it isn't worthy of ever seeing the light again. I learned as I wrote it. I've actually kept my first attempts from my childhood and as a teen. It's the stuff from my early twenties that got junked. Yikes. Showing my age now.
Then we must be the same age because this is my thought process exactly. Except I have yet to actually destroy anything. :) ;)

Thank you to everybody for sharing all your thoughts with me. :LilLove:

Soccer Mom
12-05-2006, 03:40 AM
There is no reason to unless you really want to. These were some things I didn't have on computer, just old floppy disks and hard copy. I reached a point where I wondered why I was lugging them around. Re-read and then just threw them away. Although burning might have been fun.

WackAMole
12-05-2006, 04:02 AM
I have one manuscript that I tossed into a burn barrel, poured on some gasoline and lit that sucker up!

underthecity
12-05-2006, 04:07 AM
I don't have much saved from past endeavours. I lent one WIP I was working on in high school to a former friend to read, but never got it back. No big loss; I don't believe it would have turned the literary world upside down or anything. But, it would have been nice to read it again.

My cousin still has the partial manuscript of a YA horror novel I attempted in the early 90s. Hope he still has it. Some of it's salvageable.

I kept a journal through one year when I was in college. I don't like to read it. It's pretty awful to look at. Most interesting though, is that it chronicles a three-month romance I had with this one girl. All of the ups and downs and everything in between is written about the worst relationship I've ever been in. That's the only saving grace of this journal. I just can't bring myself to throw it away. But I feel I should after having been married for ten years (to someone else).

allen

CBeasy
12-05-2006, 04:10 AM
If by "destroyed" you mean accidentally thrown away then, that's a yes.

Sean D. Schaffer
12-05-2006, 04:39 AM
I mean humiliating stuff, stuff that's not who you are anymore. I have a couple of old notebooks of stories/notes/ideas that now make me cringe. The thought of burning them has crossed my mind, but... *unsure*


Yes, I have. Some of my older stuff I got rid of because I had loads of copies of the same manuscript, and some of my older stuff I got rid of because of religious reasons (i.e. my pastor told me the stuff I wrote was *evil* and I was stupid enough to believe him).

The stuff I then thought was *evil* I now wish I had kept. It wasn't evil at all; my pastor just didn't like dragons.

SLake
12-05-2006, 04:53 AM
I haven't destroyed any of the fiction I've written, but in my teens and early twenties I did write the most awful poetry. Luckily, none of it will ever come back to haunt me, as it's all rotting at the bottom of a land-fill somewhere in the South of England.

A pom in NZ :) I used to live in Titirangi (but I'm an Aussie) and I worked at the Uni. Ever get out to Huia? It gorgeous there. I used to go horse riding near there and shooting sometimes. Great blog--but your MSS in landfill! Sore point here in the UK at the moment, you polluter you! My earlier stuff isn't in landfill, but lost in a million rewrites.

Now I save dated increment on DVDs, sometimes printing the results. It's useful for referral. But going ballistic when work is saved only on little plastic disks would be a real worry!

jamiehall
12-05-2006, 07:48 PM
My cousin still has the partial manuscript of a YA horror novel I attempted in the early 90s. Hope he still has it. Some of it's salvageable.


If you think you might ever re-write it, get that manuscript returned to yourself pronto. Every year you wait means a greater chance that it will disappear for good (accidentally thrown out, buried seven boxes deep in an unlabeled box in the attic, damaged beyond repair by a basement flood, etc., etc.).

Celia Cyanide
12-05-2006, 08:51 PM
I wanted to delete all of it. Lantern Jack won't let me, for some reason.

LeslieB
12-06-2006, 04:45 AM
I'm too much of a packrat to get rid of anything. I did have some early stories lost in a hard drive crash... and considering what was in them, I am devoutly grateful. I also re-wrote a story and erased all traces of the original because I needed to. The original was written in a cathartic white heat to get a disturbing plot bunny out of my head, then I re-wrote it to be less cringe-inducing.

askeladd
12-06-2006, 05:47 AM
I, too, suffer from packrat syndrome, so there's a lot of stuff that I should get rid of but haven't yet. I had tried journal writing ten or fifteen years ago, but I destroyed those - most of what I had written was melancholic tripe and not worth saving, frankly. I wasn't really concerned about other family members reading it since I wrote them in another language :) .

EngineerTiger
12-07-2006, 05:59 AM
Best advice I have ever had - don't burn it. Edit it.

J.S Greer
12-07-2006, 08:54 AM
I keep all of it. You never know what might be salvageable in the future.

Me too, and a lot of it is. Ive used some and turned it into workable material.

Of course it took a ton of work to do so, because much of it was laughable. Good ideas endure though, no matter how bad I was when I first commited them to paper. LOL

Mom'sWrite
12-07-2006, 08:58 AM
I've destroyed my work purposely and accidentally. Once I tried to destroy it purposely, it auto-saved itself, then my hard-drive achieved critical mass moments later. Like trying to off Rasputin. I wonder if it's really gone.