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Documenting my odyssey into the wonderful world of fantasy writing and beyond. Can't promise I will always be on topic as the world is vast and full of such wonderous, and sometimes terrible, distractions. Email me: cassandra.jade.author@gmail.com

08 June, 2009

Write For Keeps

I love going through old writing. Things I've scribbled and put aside. Frequently it is only a few lines, or a single line of dialogue that I have heard clearly but have nothing to add to it. I write it down in a notebook, or on a single piece of paper and tuck it away. Some of it may never be read again. Some of it will be shuffled off the side of my desk or tossed with the scrap paper as I forget I wrote something on it. Some of it, will end up pasted into a notebook that I have used to plan a novel, and that single image or line of dialogue will be exactly what I need.

I do know that today I was feeling very tired and the last thing I wanted to do was edit - and I certainly am not in the mood to begin a new project at present (with two manuscripts in very progressed draft form just waiting for me to actually finish them). That said, I was still streaming ideas for a couple of new projects and so I was jotting them down as I watched television and went about my business.

Then I had a brainwave. A couple of lines of dialogue that I was sure I had heard somewhere before. I'm always cautious about this because usually I'll remember they were lines from some book or movie I saw or read a couple of months ago and of course I then can't use them. So I racked my brain trying to remember where I had heard them before, because they flowed, and soared and I could see the characters plain as day and the scene was unfolding beautifully in my mind.

At last I remembered where I had heard the dialogue before. I wrote it. In a notebook that was stashed on the edge of my desk under an ever growing pile of rubble (including forms, letters, hats, CD's, books, other notebooks, and an ever growing collection of jewellery that has bothered me while trying to type and so has been discarded) I found the lines as well as a whole pile of other half-thought out conversations between nameless characters from nameless places. Usually I've woken from a dream and during the day drifts of conversations roll through my mind and I would quickly record what words could be remembered.

So I found the lines. And I realised that they would be absolutely perfect for a character I'm thinking about for one of my next projects. I also realised I know who she's going to say them to and so I'm starting to get the framework together for a second character that before today did not exist. It works perfectly with the ideas I already have on this project and the tone of the dialogue helped me to realise exactly who this character should be. All and all, a very productive day in non-writing.

In many ways I'm really glad I almost never throw things away. Particularly things I've written. I'm also glad I do not rely totally on the computer. It is way to easy to hit the backspace and make things disappear. Things that maybe don't fit where they are but would be perfect for the project that is just over the hill. I've gotten into the habit of writing things down before deleting, or at the very least copying into a blank document and saving under scraps before deleting.

Maybe I'll never use something. Maybe it was never any good to begin with. Why take the chance? Why reinvent the wheel? More importantly I have always believed that beginning is hard. Getting something onto paper (or into type). Once it is there, making it better is easy. Making it good is a little harder. Making it brilliant is at times tedious, but well worth the effort. Whichever way, you have to start with just having it before you can even think about good.

That said, I continued my hunt through old note books thinking maybe I had some other materials stashed away that might be helpful at this time. This isn't, but I remembered when I wrote this and it made me smile.

Can I reach the stars?
Do I really care?
How can I think to reach so high?
When I know I'll never dare.

Maybe not the most optimistic of texts, but I wrote this when I was seventeen and living in overseas as an student exchange (my first and only time out of Australia, so far). What made me smile about this was I wrote this the day I began hand writing my very first novel manuscript in a school book I'd been given. I dared to think that maybe one day I'd be a writer. The lines above illustrated how impossible I believed that goal to be. Seven years later and I not only think to reach that goal but I have dared to try and continue to dare on a daily basis.

I still have the notebook that I hand wrote that first novel manuscript in. I know that since then I typed those first few chapters at least four different times, beginning to dream and then discarding the notion as foolish, before last year I finally wrote and finished that manuscript. It became my first finished manuscript and I remember the feeling of elation that it gave me. Seeing it before me, finished, knowing that at first I hadn't ever believed I would finish, let alone consider publishing. Since then I've written two more manuscripts, finished the drafts and am working on polishing them. I don't see an end, only more beginnings.

This particular note will probably never be used in any of my stories, but I will keep it forever. To remind myself of how far I have come, and how much things have changed. Whenever I feel a moment of doubt or hesitation I can remind myself that I didn't believe it was possible for me to finish even one story, and I proved myself wrong.

What I write, I write for keeps. I never know when I will need it.


  1. Very inspiring post! It's true...sometimes a piece of dialogue or a character just isn't right for the current project, but it might be perfect for something farther down the road. Thanks for the reminder.

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  2. I agree with your writing philosophy. If we treat everything we write with respect, we will come to respect ourselves as the dedicated writers we are.

    Thank you for letting me in on your thoughts and strategies.