I’ve been stuck on one short story in the collection I’m writing for quite a while now. Previously, the story had been a day-in-the-life of a character in a new version of representative democracy that I’m exploring, where instead of having a single Congressman you can transfer your vote to anyone you like, who will be your representative—or you can vote on your own behalf on new legislation, or represent others; but it was boring because there was no conflict. I therefore junked the first idea and tried attacking it from a different angle, that of actively lobbying for a particular bill.
Unfortunately, the second version turned out to be a complete mess. Beating my head against it for weeks trying to fix the structure gave little joy. Finally, frustrated, I decided I’d take another look at the first draft and see if it could be salvaged. Lo and behold, now that I had the benefit of lots of time away from the draft (and having in the meanwhile taken some of the courses offered by Holly Lisle, an excellent writing teacher), very quickly I figured out where the latent conflicts were in the story and how to draw them out into the open.
The lesson here is that you should never, ever, ever throw away old drafts. Duplicate them and then hack them to ribbons if you are editing, but preserve and cherish the originals. They may get you out of a bind someday.
(And yes, this is another way of saying that my collection will be published Real Soon Now™. If you are interested, do subscribe to this blog and you’ll be among the first to know when the book goes live.)