Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Mistakes We Make

I’ve been holed up in my house writing and working for a few weeks now. I haven’t gone out much and I’m behind on my errands. We’re expecting a major snowstorm today and so I decided to run to the post office to mail a long overdue book prize to a holiday blog winner.

I figured with everyone running to get bread, milk and eggs, the post office would be empty. Nope, it was packed. Apparently, if you already have the ingredients for French toast, you need to mail packages prior to the blizzard. As I was waiting in line for my turn, I noticed this:

And, since the line moved very slowly, I had time to think. The stamps were a mistake that became a collector’s item. The Leaning Tower of Pisa is a tourist destination.  How many other mistakes have been made into something fortuitous, and can we, as writers, do that with our writing?

If you’re like me, you have files of “extra” writing that didn’t work the first or second time around, but that you’re loathe to get rid of completely. Or you have a character that you thought you liked but who turned into someone not quite right for the story you’re working on currently. Do you save them or do you delete them? Have you thought of using them in the future?

What if we transformed our mistakes into future opportunities?


  1. Hi Jennifer, I enjoyed your blog and YES there is a place for those long forgotten manuscripts. My current book that will be released by Rebel Ink Press was actually my first completed manuscript. I had put it aside for years while I learned the craft of writing and then published 2 romance novels but I just couldn't let "Unrequited" go. I believed in the story, the characters and the message sent by the novel so I rededicated my efforts to a full rewrite and now I can't wait to share the story with my readers. Bottom line, if you love a story whether old or long forgotten dig it out and make those characters come to life.

  2. Hi Jason, that's so great you were able to use your first story--they always hold a special place in our hearts.

  3. I keep everything. I still have a box with type-written half stories from the 70s and 80s. 'His Leading Lady' was one of those, and 'Changing the Future' was a complete rehash of a full novel I wrote in the 70s. I don't throw away or delete anything. You never know when you might want to use it or part of it in the future.

  4. I guess there are benefits to being a pack rat, at least in this case!

  5. I do tend to keep scenes, ideas I've either deleted or didn't use in a particular story. You never know when they might come in handy for a future story.

    Once I even 'stole' the last name of a character from a piece I hadn't finished yet to use in one I was currently working on. If I ever get back to that first one, I'll need to come up with another name for my character!

  6. What a great post, Jen.
    I can't imagine not saving story ideas. You never know when they will fit into a WIPY

  7. Yeah, Debra, I really like some of the names I've come up with. Just because I don't use their stories, doesn't mean I can't use the names.

    Thanks, Ana.