Word Compost by Deb Eileen

Do you recyle?

Not bottles or cans, not cardboard or newspapers, magazines or glass. I’m talking about what writer’s throw away in volume- words. Yes, your rough drafts, the ugly drafts, the “who knows what I was going for there” draft. The stories that never got off the ground, the character details that were cut, or those those brilliant scenes that were sacraficed for pacing.

What do you do with your old writing? The writing that doesn’t make the cut? I’m here to advocate that you don’t dump it into the trash, but instead you word compost. Make a file where you keep these things either in a desk drawer or on your computer. Composting is a strange thing. You dump what feels like trash in there- and then magical things can happen. What was trash sometimes becomes something new, something useful. Sometimes those details can be used in a new work or they create a jumping off point for your muse. Sometimes the only purpose is a reminder that you are getting better at this writing thing, but I beg you- don’t just throw it away.

Writers have their own strange rituals. I know people who can’t write until they create a collage, some who have alters to their muse and others who can’t start a project until they have a detailed outline for every chapter. My weird thing is that I can’t really get into a new project until I know the first line. I seem incapable of jumping in and worrying about the first line later. I can spend weeks fretting over how to start the book. Now when the book is all said and done I may still change the first line- but I have to love it when I start. This past week I went through my compost pile and there, buried among the ugly drafts, was a line. Just one line. I changed it around- but the start of it was there.

“Last night I dreamt I dissected Lauren Wood during biology class.”

Now I’m off and running with my next work in progress. Recycling pays off.

What is your strange writer ritual?
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13 thoughts on “Word Compost by Deb Eileen

  1. I have discovered the beauty of blogdom–if not able to recycle previously-written things, it is a place in which one can write a little more explicitly than, say, for the Washington Post (for instance I wrote a guest blog today about rats having sex).
    I am ritual-less when it comes to writing. I just start writing and hope for the best. Perhaps I *need* to start coming up with rituals, though? LOL

  2. I keep everything. If I cut a scene, it gets logged and kept on my hard drive. I hate waste and feel that if there’s a chance I can use that scene later in the book (um, it’s never happened yet, but someday it will. I’m sure of it) I don’t want to have to type it again.

    But weird rituals? I don’t think I have any. Although I think just about anyone would be appalled at how I write. I will usually have about six windows open on my desktop and after about a paragraph or so of typing, I will check my e-mail, play a move on Facebook’s scrabulous, look at Backspace and then go to the old school distraction – looking out the window to my back yard. The non-writing distractions are ways of my subconscious getting ready to type again, so after a few minutes, back to the WIP I go. I know, it’s insane. although, I logged 5412 words on Monday and finished the first draft of the WIP on tuesday, so something is working.

    Eileen, I’m looking forward to reading about Lauren Wood – your first line is VERY intruiging!

  3. I save all that stuff too! And I’ve been actually using some of it in my new book. Not that it ever works to just cut and paste, but I’ve taken ideas from scenes and rewritten them.

    I’ve been trying to do Gail’s “Bring Me the Mojo” ritual and I love it but I’m a bit scattered about whan and how I write these days so sometimes it’s just a matter of plopping myself down and forcing myself to do it.

  4. Oh, but I just realized, I don’t like the first line I’ve got for my wip! Maybe that’s why it’s going so darned slowly!

  5. This is THE BEST idea! I have reams of half finished WIP, sometimes when I’m stuck, I read one of the ‘deleted scenes’ and it gives me fresh perspective or a new angle.
    GREAT GREEN POST!!

  6. Jenny- Rats having sex? Is there no end to wealth of information at your fingertips?

    Dad- no worries- Lauren isn’t real. She’s one of my new imaginary friends- but I don’t think it’s going to go well for her.

    Joanne- oh I hear you on the multi-tasking. I am a compulsive email checker. Then when all else fails I go over to Cute Overland and get my distraction for the day.

    Danielle- I’m amazed at what can be re-used- usually not cut and paste- but it gives you someplace to start. Also- never under estimate the power of liking your first line. It’s my own weird thing- but I swear by it.

    Rhianna- I figured by the end of the week we needed a new angle on the green- glad you liked it.

  7. I definitely steal from my own projects. The further back on the burner something is, the more likely I am to “borrow” a phrase for my WIP.

  8. I LOVE this, Eileen! In fact I used to keep a folder of first lines for when I got stuck… now if only I could remember where I put that…

    also, love YOUR first line! Good luck!!

  9. Katie- don’t think of it as stealing- recycling has such a better sound.

    Larramie- you’ve got it. I’ve got some things in plan for poor Lauren,

    Gail- ah- I know the issue of having to find the darn folder all too well.

  10. That’s a fantastic opener! (My guess is Lauren “Wood” have had it coming. Har har!)

    My strange writer ritual involves doing everything possible in the house to avoid writing so I have no more distractions. Then I turn the ringer off and sit at the computer and procrastinate some more, and an hour later, I’m finally writing. And usually having fun and wondering why I procrastinated so much.

  11. Eileen–did you like the rat sex thing? I thought you’d especially love the polyester pants 😉 . I think they were held up with a draw string, though–no button-flies for the rats. Sort of more Jethro Bodein style he he he

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