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Q&A

How to keep track of worthwhile snippets from discovery writing, which don't work where they were first written?

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Sometimes, when I write, I find myself writing down a path that ends up not leading at all where I wanted to go with what I was writing. That's to be expected when discovery-writing.

Depending on the magnitude of the issues, that may be fixable in-place, or it might be more appropriate to simply back off somewhat, delete a chunk of text and start over from an earlier point in what you've written.

For those times when fixing in-place is more trouble than it's worth, but what you've written does contain at least parts that you want to keep because they turned out really well and might be worthwhile to reuse elsewhere, writing on a computer does make it easy to cut and paste the text into a different document file instead of just deleting it outright, to keep for later reuse (either in full, or just some part of it). But how do you find it again?

What are some good techniques to keep track of those snippets?

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Stick them in a file called Snippets. This has one function and one function only: to make it easier to excise all the stuff that does not belong in your story. Tell yourself that this is good stuff and one day you will go and find a way to use it in something else. You won't, but that's okay. The point is simply to ease the pain of removing it from the story that it does not belong to. It does not matter what you do, it only matters that you do something so that your story just has the scenes that belong to it, not the irrelevant scenes that you fell in love with.

Here's the truth of it. You learned to write good prose. Its easy once you learn, and you can churn it out about as fast as you can type. You learned to write good scenes. That takes a little longer, but once you learn you can turn out a good scene on demand. The hard thing is constructing long form stories. That will be the study of a lifetime. Sacrifice everything to that.

In your next story, if you need a good scene, you will write one. You are good at that now. No need to go looking back in your snippets file and hoping you will find something useful. You don't need to. You are good at writing scenes now and you will write a brand new scene that is just the scene this new story needs.

If you end up writing some good scenes in this new book that don't turn out to work for the story, by all means add then to the snippet file. That is what it is for. You will never use them again. It doesn't matter. All that matters is to get them out of the story that they don't belong to.

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