When I left town last Wednesday for the Emerald City Writers’ Conference, I wrote detailed note for the pet-sitter. I covered everything from the dogs’ exercise habits to the location of the frozen blood worms for the eel.
But one thing I neglected to request is that someone – anyone – water the basil on my desk.
This is what I found when I returned on Monday:
I took one look at it and knew it was a goner. The leaves were crispy, and the stems drooped like braless D-cups.
Still, I had some water left in my Nalgene bottle from the drive, so I halfheartedly dumped it in knowing full well I’d be throwing the thing in the garbage and holding a basil funeral the next day.
But when I woke up in the morning, here’s what greeted me on my desk:
Less than 24 hours had passed, and the basil was magically resurrected. Well, it's not perfect. The leaves are still a little limp in some spots, and it could use a good pruning.
But I’m glad I didn’t toss it in the trash.
It made me think of a conversation that’s been taking place in the discussion forums for writers in Lani Diane Rich’s online revision class. Many are discovering they need to hack out entire scenes and rewrite fresh ones to make their stories stronger.
A newer author recently asked whether she should scrap the dead scenes altogether or keep them somehow. Several of us who’ve been there before suggested she save everything in an old draft while creating a new one to incorporate changes.
That’s always been my preferred method. Many times I’ve written a scene and realized later it just wasn’t right. Though the temptation is great to just hit the delete key, I never do it – not permanently anyway.
I’m a fan of creating a new version of a manuscript every time I open it to make changes. I use the date in the file name for each new version, giving myself the option of going back to those earlier versions in case I wake up one morning shrieking, “Noooo! Give me back my scene with the hubcap and the chocolate frosting!”
I’m not saying there aren’t times when those old scenes really do need to land in the trash pile and stay there. I’m just suggesting it’s smart to give yourself the option to go back and salvage or simply learn from them when you return for another look someday.
Are you trigger happy on the delete key when it comes to edits, or do you save old drafts in hopes of making them new again someday? Please share in the comments.
Either that, or come on over for dinner. I’ll be making a lovely caprese salad with my resurrected basil.