Friday, November 25, 2011


By Matt Sinclair

So, was it good for you, too? No! I meant Thanksgiving. You know, the annual day in which family members believe it's fine and dandy to tell other family that they're making terrible mistakes in their life and that if they had only listened to them, their problems would have all been sorted out by now. Oh, and this wine is terrible!

What? That doesn't happen to you? No, me neither. Really.

Anyway, one thing most people love about Thanksgiving is the leftovers. Personally, I'm happy there's usually a couple beers left that I can have for the long holiday weekend, but I can't say no to a turkey sandwich on Friday. Of course, for writers, every day can be a day to give thanks, and every day is a day to behold the value of leftovers.

What I'm talking are those tasty story morsels you trimmed off your 150,000 word YA novel, or the chapter that showed how your main character met his first girl friend in third grade, or the offbeat character you loved but who didn't move the story at all. Is last year's NaNo novel still eating away at your mind even though you swore you'd never look at it again after you saw all the typos, plot flops, and gross misappropriations of Twilight story lines? Take another look. There probably was something worth revising. What have you got to lose? Bring a beer with you.

Sometimes reheating an old story line is better than the whole turkey enchilada you were gnawing on the day before. What do you do with them? I like making short stories out of mine, and I've had tossed-aside characters re-emerge in other story lines that were more appropriate for them. I know of a writer who took an ancillary character from one failed plot and started a new novel with her.

The possibilities are truly endless, unlike the shelf life of what you shoved into the the fridge last night. I'll keep this post short today, because it's also Black Friday and you're either shopping or taking advantage of the long weekend to try to make up the 15,000 word shortage you have on your current NaNo. Good luck!

But one more thing: avoid the stuffing. It really won't help your story.


JeffO said...

Fun post, Matt.

There are parts of my WiP that I ruthlessly cut that I'd love to find a way to resurrect. As for last year's NaNo, you're right, it's not as bad as it seemed. I've got it sitting on my desk in front of me, waiting for a full read-through.

Suzanne Payne said...

I usually keep big chunks of stuff(ing) that I carve out of my MS. I thought it was because I'm a hoarder and don't like to throw anything away never know when you might need it. Now I know what I can do with all those discarded scenes. :)

Jemi Fraser said...

I used to save each draft when I made any changes. I'm not quite so paranoid I'll need these things anymore. But there is that one secondary character from that NaNo two years ago who would make a great main character! :)

Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, Matt!

Matt Sinclair said...

Thanks Jeff, I had fun writing this -- though I enjoy pretty much everything I write that's creative. I think I've returned to every Nano story and found ways to expand scenes or the entire story line. I find Nano a great way to build foundations if not whole novels.

Matt Sinclair said...

Suzanne and Jemi, I'm a hoarder too, and I actually date-stamp every iteration of my works in progress; I'm most aggressive about this in the early stages when entire chapters might be ripped out. I don't think it's paranoid at all. Perhaps overly through, but it's nice to resurrect them later and discover they weren't so terrible after all.