One part of moving my office to the basement is moving all of my files, including some big binders full of old drafts of my current work.
When I was writing my first novel back in high-school part of the writing ritual included printing off the night’s writing, three-hole punching it, and adding it to the growing stack of paper in my working binder. The weight and feel of that paper was part of my reward.
Truthfully this process continued for many years. I’m not sure when I stopped printing on a page by page basis, but I’ve printed complete drafts of the various revisions of Surreality, Dark Matter and many other projects for years. In fact the initial revisions for Surreality and early revisions of Dark Matter (before I decided it needed a complete rewrite) were done by hand with pen on paper. So I have virgin drafts that are unmarked, and I have drafts that are covered in my abysmal handwriting.
The recurring theme of my office move is space. I actually am getting a bigger office in the basement than I ever had in the front bedroom, but I’m still trying to consolidate and create a more professional and organized space without all of the clutter. Prior to the move I’d already moved all but the more recent drafts into a box that sits in the storage area, probably to be uncovered by my grand-children, and this is probably the fate that awaits the drafts sitting on my shelf.
My current editing process is all digital. Current revisions of a book are kept on tablets, while all the editing work is done on a laptop. I used to think that doing it by hand with pen a paper enabled me to catch more, but it also slowed down my ability to just rewrite an entire paragraph from scratch, using the previous as reference. The Sky Below has been entirely written this way, and will probably only see printed form if I do some kind of a CreateSpace version. Ditto for the final revisions of Surreality. The fractal book has never seen a printed form (except for very short sections).
My wife has said in the past that I should hold onto these drafts despite their anachronism and she’s probably right. I’ve thought about using them as giveaways in some future Kickstarter project, or even just recycling the paper. For the virgin drafts I guess this would be no great loss, and truthfully I’m not sure what benefit the early edits will show to anyone except for the most nascent writer. But there they sit in the box, safe from the somewhat ruthless machinations of efficiency, space and neatness (phrases which outsiders would never use to describe my office).
Maybe it’s just that I’ve passed the stage where I want the interim product, and want to hold the actual artifact in my hand. Indeed, even though the fractal book is the first project I ever self-published and continue to make money from, it’s a little unsatisfying to not see it sitting on my shelf. I once calculated what I’d have to sell it for on CreateSpace to make a profit. Turns out I’d have to cut 100 pages (because of page limits on color copies) either by shrinking the font, combining gallery pages, or cutting content, and sell the book for $60 to make about a buck on each copy. That’s 12 times what I charge to make a better profit digitally. So it’s a bit of a chore just to make a hard copy for myself professionally. Still, one of these days I may splurge.
What do you do with your old drafts? Are you a hoarder or unsentimental?
One response to “Is it getting drafty in here?”
I keep all my old drafts digitally, for reference, but I usually end up printing the whole novel at one time or another. I’m like you – I think there’s something different about having a printed copy. Maybe because it’s more fixed – the words are the words, and can’t be altered with a twitch of the fingers.