• Miles O'Neal

Writing 101 - Everyone has Unpublishable Junk


wastebasket full of printed manuscripts that were rubbish

There are many aspects of writing we talk about- the need to just write, holding off on editing, the importance of editing, writer's block (fact or myth?), and so much more. But there is a topic we seldom hear about- the works that didn't pan out. There are several levels to this.

  1. When we were very young. Whether in terms of actual age or development as a writer, much of our early work just isn't that good. Some of it is utter garbage. Some of it is proof we are improving but still nothing we want to share with anyone. Some of it holds promise; it might contain a brilliant plot, a beautifully crafted sentence, a great character, a perfect description. We hang on to these, just in case. Looking back later with more writing maturity we can make better decisions about these.

  2. Writing practice. Hopefully we are writing every day, or at least fairly frequently. As we improve with time so does our material- but so (hopefully) do our standards. Everything in the previous section applies here.

  3. Not up to par. This one gets talked about; I'm referring to work that has potential but isn't our best. It may need outside help or we may just need to rewrite and research and re-edit and repeat until it's better. Whether we publish or not, this is something we all go through. It's where we tend to really improve.

  4. The albatross. We may be working on the wrong thing (or the right thing at the wrong time). But it's not something we just push aside; it wants to own us, and it weighs us down. Like any huge weight it needs to go. If you can shove it in a corner and forget about it, great! If not, do what you need to:

  5. Throw it away.

  6. Feed it to the shredder.

  7. Start a bonfire with it.

  8. Lock it in a trunk.

  9. Encrypt the file, hide the key, and set file permissions so that nobody can touch it.

You'll know when you need to do this and you'll be glad you did.

A story of an albatross inspired this blog. You should read Laura Dave's story: http://lithub.com/the-joy-of-throwing-away-an-entire-novel/ . What's your albatross (in writing or otherwise)? How did you- or do you plan to- deal with it?

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