The Dung Pile


Do you ever get a great idea for a story, begin writing it only to discover it is total crap? I’ve done it. The idea is inspired, the bones of the story are there but the narration and dialogue are complete garbage. I refuse to throw it away though. Did I hear you ask why not?

Well, I’ve got stories of total crap that go back to when I was 8 or 9 years old. At the time I was sure they were brilliant. I’m glad I kept them now. Although they weren’t intended to be humorous, they’re downright hilarious. Hey, I was 8 attempting to write a literary masterpiece about a family struggling to survive in a cottage in the Irish countryside. Sounds promising. However, I had no concept of time or geography. I picked some random year in the 1800s and somehow the family managed to have a bathroom inside, and their cottage was surrounded by ‘massive cornfields,’ because we all know how prolific corn fields are in Ireland. Hmmm, maybe I should have considered the potato.

I’ve learned a lot from looking back at stories I wrote that didn’t quite work out. I can look at them with a more objective eye now and say, “Hey, there’s where you went wrong.” I have thrown some things away but not much. These less-than-successful stories serve as a gauge for progress.

When I truly feel an idea is inspired and the bones are good, but the rest of it is lousy, I’ll put it aside for another time. After all, maybe I’m having a bad day or one too many distractions – I have a lot of those. Sometimes I write real stinkers, but I’ve decided not to give up on those piles of crap until I see dung beetles hauling them off.

How about you? When you write something you know is pretty awful, do you throw it away without a second thought or keep it for comic relief?

20 responses »

  1. Sadly, I’m not much of a saver, and I’ve trashed old “dung,” of which I’m sure there was much. I don’t think I would now though. In fact, I have a twelve-year-old crappy but completed novel that I might dust off and rework someday. Or at least recycle some of the characters. 🙂

  2. I keep everything. But sometimes I forget where I put it. After finishing the last draft of my novel, I pulled a box out of my closet and found chapters I had written in 2004. I forgot about those. I might steal some of my own stuff back and add it to the next draft. Some of it wasn’t bad. Not good, but not bad. I can fix that now. 🙂

    • That’s great Julie! You sound like me – I have so many notebooks and loose papers and steno pads – pieces of stories and poetry everywhere. I have no doubt you can turn your 2004 nuggets into refined gold!

  3. I’ve had at least one instance where I stopped halfway through a draft, realizing how bad the story was turning out. I still have faith in the basic premise, but something about my approach to it failed completely. I tried to make the best of it and felt it was good practice for my prose, at least.

    • Yes, the approach to it – I have a story I’m working on now in which I am convinced of it being a solid workable story, but my approach to it threw me off track. I started over and so far I am enjoying it much better. Oh, and I have several I have started and not finished! 🙂 Thanks for popping by!

  4. I recently found some of my older writing and trashed a lot of it, but some of it I kept. I used to write a lot when I was a kid, but I don’t have any of that stuff anymore. I still have the partial novel I was working on until I stopped writing for many years. I don’t know if I’ll ever try to rework it, but my current WIP digs deep into the material that inspires my previous attempt, so in some ways, that effort I made so long ago lives on.

    This picture of a kitten has nothing to do with anything 🙂

    • I can throw a lot of things away without hesitation but I’m weird about the writing – I hold on to it. Your novel is going to be amazing, I just know it! And the kitten is so cute I added the little thing to my Creature Comforts pin board on Pinterest – thank you!

  5. nice flashbacking to the past of old material. but yes, completely in agreement as to how long one keeps a particular writing. i kept a bunch for years. i do have to say those last couple lines in this brought a little smirk out ot me.

      • i quit writing about 3 years ago and thought i’d never come back to it and threw tons of stuff away. i wish now i still had some of back to see what i could pilfer. i’ll keep smirking for you:)

  6. i hope i never see a dung beetle tiptoeing across my slush pile… some of my deepest thoughts are hiding inside that dome of manuscripts

  7. Hi there! Very good post, and I can really relate to this. I do keep my stuff–it’s my “unifinished” pile. I do go back to it though; sometimes you find something brilliant that was definitely worth the save and thus definitely worth finishing.

    • Why thank you! And yes, you never know when some little tidbit buried amongst the rubble might be something wonderful and worthy of use. Thanks so much for stopping by 🙂

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