So yesterday, I finished cleaning out my office. We bought a new file cabinet, so I could delete and rearrange all the folders, taking them out of the two tiny boxes we were using. This also freed up space, so the first thing I thought of to do with that space is move my writing hard copies into them, and remove at least some of the cardboard boxes.
But the problem was there still wasn't enough space, and the reason is because I also keep all my printed revisions. Basically I keep anything that had to do with the story. This includes notes, pre-writing, reference materials, and all past revisions. All in printed format. This can take up a lot of space. The Heretic went through seven revisions. That's about 455,000 words woruth of paper.
Why do I keep all these, you ask? Well, that's a good question, and I pondered that myself as I tried to figure out how to organize everything.
The reason I first started keeping material was evidence. When I was starting, I didn't save the story as separate files. This was when, at my house, disk space was at a premium, 1.14MB floppies were still in use, and I just didn't know any better. The Internet was in its awkward teenage years too, and issues of copyright, piracy, and stealing other people's work were just starting to land on people's desks. Cue the spotlight on me, the young author. He thinks, "if someone on the Internet steals my work and posts it on their site, I would have no way to prove that I'm the one who actually wrote it. It would be my word against theirs." The only way I thought of to prove that I'd written it was keeping the evidence of the work that I'd done.
Plus, computer copies could be faked. Someone could make some fake revisions (but if they were going to go to the trouble of doing that, why not write their own story). Not to mention I was writing only fan fiction at the time, which is "illegal" only in the most technical sense, and any issues of stealing would have to be settled without government interference.
The other reason was reference. In case I had made a note on something, or made a line that got cut out eventually, but wanted to go back to, I could put it back in. This happened most often in Blood: I Live Again and The Heretic, when I couldn't decide. Now that I compose on the computer, that is no longer an issue, with the undo command. But sometimes I would make notes for other stories, or quotes. I don't do that much anymore either.
Since I no longer need the first two, now I mostly use nostalgia as my crutch. For one, I thought my kids could go back, look at my revisions, and see how I evolved as an author. Now that I write that out, I see how stupid that looks. I don't know if that's something I would have done or not, had my father saved his work (and if he was a writer). If I was an aspiring author, I would probably be looking to the Neil Gaiman's and Stephen Kings for advice, not an amateur. The only reason my kids would look at my work would be to see another side of their father. But to do that, they would probably just read the final copies. Why would they read the behind the scenes stuff?
But the behind the scenes can be fun. That's part of the reason DVDs are so successful. But these stories are nowhere near the quality of those where you would want to see the behind the scenes stuff. But on the other hand, they might be fun for me to look at. When I'm a famous author, it'd be fun to go back and see how bad I was. Hell, that might be fun now. So I'm torn with whether I should toss them or not. I'd hate to throw them out and then need them the next day, but I haven't used them for x amount of years.
Now I've got probably close to 507,000 written words floating out there. And that's just final copies. Keeping all the revisions for that is ridiculous. There can't be any other author who does it. I assume real author's keep copies of revisions on their computer, which is what I do now. And eventually, they'll get backed up. The problem is no one steals the work of someone who's not famous, and if you're famous enough that people are stealing your work, you really don't need to worry about it.
I ended up putting final versions in the boxes, and storing the revisions in one cardboard box (I was able to eliminate 3 others along the way). But still, I wonder how long am I going to keep this junk. Is it ever going to be important?