Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Keeping Old Manuscripts

In my closet, beside the angst-ridden poetry I wrote in high school and my first fiction manuscripts, I've just found a stash of old essays from my undergrad. 

It was the early nineties when I wrote those... Ah, the memories... My dot matrix took hours to print on continuous fan-fold paper - I still remember the horror of ripping a page when removing the perforated edges - and my *great* academic works included such riveting titles as:
  • Fidelity, Infidelity and the Relationship of Penelope and Odysseus
  • A Critical Review of Masculinity in Macbeth
  • Anne's House of Dreams: A Historical Source?
  • The Importance of Setting in "Young Goodman Brown"
  • Mistress Pat: A Historical Source? (a recurring theme, I guess)
  • Characterizations of the Heroines in the Novels Emma and Pride and Prejudice

Will I ever read those papers again?  Probably not.  But I still keep them. 

I know many people throw them away, but to me they are reminders of fun times. (I loved my university experiences.)

My closet is full of old scribblers and manuscripts.

I've also heard of people tossing or burning their first manuscripts.  I don't know if I'll ever be able to do that.  The poor relative who has to clean out my office after I die will probably have to do the task.
do read my early attempts at fiction, though, for three four reasons. 
  1. It is inspiring to see how much my writing skills have developed and improved over the years. 
  2. They make me laugh, which keeps me humble.
  3. Sometimes I find a few gems, and I think - Wow, I wrote that?  Cool. 
   (4.) From time to time, I almost believe those early attempts could be salvaged.  Then I read them, and that fantasy fades.

What have you kept?  Do you still have your old papers from university?  Do you still have your first manuscript?


Teresa Cypher said...

Hi Lorraine, I found your blog through the list on Kate Warren's blog. I wish that one of the choices available after this post, was "nostalgic". I just wrote a post recently in which I lamented how badly written my very first manuscript was. And, yes, lol, I still have it...I wrapped it in brown paper the same day I wrapped its twin and mailed it off to a publisher (ack!)

It is inspiring to look back on old stuff...

We live, we learn, we write, we learn, we live and write some more...and we learn some more... Life is grand. :-)

patonlorraine said...

Thanks, Teresa! I'm happy to know I'm not alone in this! ;) I sent my very first m/s to a publisher too... (How embarrassing!) At least it sounds like we've both learned a lot since our first m/s! :)

Mae Clair said...

Until recently, I kept everything, Lorraine - - way back to grade school! It was fun took look over those first childish attempts at writing and have some laughs. OMG, what drivel!

Eventually, I did toss a lot, but kept a few manuscripts written in my 20s and 30s that had some glimmers of promise. Who knows? I might actually reuse a few of those ideas one day. As you said, it's interesting to see how far I've progressed as a writer!

patonlorraine said...

Thanks for stopping by, Mae! It is always nice to see glimmers of promise in those early attempts, isn't it? :)

Tanya Reimer said...

Here's my secret, since you shared one. I turned my first romance novel into a fantasy. Stole all the characters I loved, the passion between them... and moved it to a new world. Cool. Then I took the horrible thriller I wrote as my third book and gave it a new characters with fantasy twist that made it pop. Kept the scene and the basic plot. I'd chalked both up as garbage, fire material, but ten (and fifteen) years later, I found a new life for them.

Always keep them. Everything you write might come back to haunt you. If nothing else, it'll make you chuckle.

Great fun post!!!

patonlorraine said...

Hi, Tanya! It's funny that you mentioned reworking your old stories into something very different... because I'm thinking of adding a paranormal element to my one and only attempt at romantic suspense, which I wrote about 9 years ago.

Thanks for stopping by my blog! :)

patonlorraine said...

So... this morning my big clumsy fingers deleted a comment from Liz Fielding instead of publishing it. Why are the delete / publish links so close together? And, why is there no "are you sure" fail safe? Oops. Anyway, I had an email with the message, so I thought I'd post it here... (Sorry, Liz!)

"I understand the desire to hang on to them, Lorraine. I kept the page proofs of my early books tied in red ribbon. But there came a point when I just plain ran out of room. the weight of paper was becoming a threat to the joists and I couldn't see any university wanting them for their archives! These days I just keep them to check my corrections made it into the books and then they get recycled. Just saw a programme on the tv about how long stuff is staff on usb sticks and hard drives - apparently we need the "cloud" to be safe. Or maybe you're right - paper is the way to go!"

Teresa Cypher said...

lol...I wonder if our names are recorded somewhere on a list--a very dark list, for authors who shouldn't have...but they did? ;-)

Teresa Cypher said...

Good idea, Tanya :-) !

Teresa Cypher said...

Why are the buttons so close together? I put an order in at work today for lab supplies, and thought the same thing as I looked at the computer screen. Our P.O. system has a "submit" button side by side with "cancel". Yep...I did that one day...

Suzanne Stengl said...

I'm just glad for computers and disk space. I have ALL of my manuscripts. I believe in every one of them...well, except for one.

I keep thinking I will go back and edit. But then I write new stories and that keeps me busy for a long time.

As for the paper stuff, I don't have much. My sister just sent me a folder of artwork I did in Gr. 6. I never realized I was any good at art. I'm going to put those pages in a photo album. They make me happy.

patonlorraine said...

Hi, Suzanne! Yes, I have digital copies too. When I get a new computer, I usually transfer the files to my new hard drive as well as having the external back ups. They sure take up a lot less space than my m/s hard copies!

It is great that your sister had your artwork! That would make me happy too. :)

Jenny Hickman said...

Until recently, I've kept all of my manuscripts (the first drafts, the endless edited pages... EVERYTHING). Then I realized how impractical that was and decided to keep only one copy of each MS so that I don't run into Liz's problem and cause structural damage to my closet. Great post.