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.
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.