Drafty in Here

About 75% of what got tossed.

Nothing makes me feel like one of those reality-show rat-warren hoarders more than confronting the things I’ve hauled from garage to garage for years with some notion that Someday I Will Need These. I’ve been moving the same set of paper-marbling combs for 15 years, ferchrissake, entirely because they’re such a pain in the ass to make.

Among the things that have been taking a Garage Tour of America are manuscript drafts. I tend to keep the significant drafts & marked revisions of novel manuscripts. I tell myself they’re an important map of My Process. But now that I’m playing Apartment Tetris with all this stuff, I’m thinking, you know, I don’t really see any universities begging for my papers so that PhD theses can be mined for posterity.

Mortality Bridge, for example. I probably revised it 40 or 50 times. I kept the major revisions, and I had at least 12 incarnations of the thing here. We’re talking 6600 sheets of paper. Carry enough of those up and down stairs and you’ll get to where you don’t care if it’s a signed first edition of the Old Testament — it’s outta here. And I’m not exactly First Folio Shakespeare; no one’s gonna bid on V3.1 of The Gnole on eBay.

So I decided to throw out my intermediate-draft manuscripts and keep only firsts and finals. Early versions of the continuation of The Architect of Sleep? Gone. The second draft of Ariel? History.

The survivors

I looked at those about-to-be-tossed drafts on my couch (there were even more than in the picture) and thought about the time and effort they embodied. Four of those novels were never published.

I also thought about how many reviews I’d read, how many emails I’d gotten, that mentioned how I don’t write very much, or had stopped entirely for 25 years, or whatever bullshit makes the rounds until it becomes irrevertible. It’s enough to make you eat a bottle of tequila.

At the end of the day, though, what really matters is where those drafts led to.  All the blind alleys, deleted scenes, rephrasings, tightening, clarity, rhythm, proofreading — they’re the dirt left behind as you dig your way to that final draft. Understanding that made it easier to throw it all away.

And now it truly may be said that Boyett recycles his stories.

6 Replies to “Drafty in Here”

  1. And I thought I was sentimental. My paper hoarding tends towards the handwritten, though. If I have to print it out, I’m not afraid to toss it, ‘cos I can always print it out all over again. (On the other hand, my hard drive undoubtedly holds the equivalent of all those piles and then some, so I’m hardly one to talk.)

    Even then, seeing pages like that in the garbage makes me shudder a bit. Almost wish you’d torched them in a bonfire or something instead. (Now THAT would have been something for Burning Man!)

    1. I wish I could have held on to them long enough to haul them to Burning Man — that’s a great idea. it wasn’t easy to toss all that — definitely a Tough Love move. Ultimately I’ve come to feel that it’s a kind of narcissism to keep all that. As if future generations will somehow pine for their loss. It’s especially hard to justify in an age in which the notion of a “draft” has become very fluid. Academics must be going insane about that.

      Now I’ve gotta figure out what to do about four boxes of correspondence. Sigh.

  2. “Early versions of the continuation of The Architect of Sleep? Gone.”

    My heart skipped a beat when I read this. Upon rereading it, I noticed the words, “early versions”, and I sighed with relief. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I’ve always held out hope I would get to read the next Architect book. This experience reminded me of a friend who fell in love and got married, thus forcing me to face the tiny, unacknowledged corner of my fool brain wherein I’d kept my belief that we’d eventually end up together.

    1. If I’ve learned anything, it’s (a) never throw out your only draft of anything, because two minutes or 20 years later, you’ll want it; (b) never say never when it comes to what you will or won’t write, as Elegy Beach clearly proved.

      1. Agreed. I was 16 when I read Ariel in 1987. I used to take a kind of vain, reflected pride in your never having written a sequel. In the intervening years, I’ve come to understand that The Story – whatever form it takes, whoever may be writing it – never ends. Only the arrogant surety of youth made me believe otherwise.

        By the way, totally worth the wait.

  3. You should have stored them in a cave in the Middle East. Who knows, they could
    be the next “Dead Sea Scrolls” in future eons…

    I would buy “Architect V. ANYTHING”. I have been hankerin’ fer some “Architect” for a coon’s age.

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