At Sara Zarr’s blog, she talks a little about “foul matter“–printed material like manuscripts that were part of the book-making process but aren’t relevant after the book is printed. She says:
“Sometimes writers save this stuff for “posterity”. I have enjoyed going to special collections and looking at drafts and manuscripts of other authors…But generally, my drafts make me feel so completely exposed, I can’t imagine anyone but my editor and a few trusted friends reading them without feeling like shortly there will be a knock on the door and I’ll be arrested for impersonating a writer. And I’m not sure about the idea of predicting that work will be lasting enough to warrant a record.”
I feel pretty much the same. Okay, so most of my foul material consists of copies printed for workshops or previous drafts, but every so often I go through huge paper purges and recycle lots of previous drafts. Most of the time, I’ve already incorporated the necessary comments into my work; and if I haven’t, maybe that was because I went a different direction in my revision. It can be tempting to keep old material, but do you really need it? When I do a paper purge, I try to think that it means I’m moving forward in my work. And as much as I love seeing old material from famous writers, I don’t necessary need all my early drafts on file just in case I make it big.
Do you tend to save your previous drafts and other foul material?