To Shred Or Not To Shred by Karen King

I am by nature a hoarder, only the fact that I’ve moved house quite a few times in my life and was once two days away from moving to Spain has made me have a clear out. And now I'm moving again so once again am making decisions about what I keep and what I take.

 Like all authors, I keep manuscripts of published work. I also have some work that has never seen the world of print and probably never will. Some of it I have shredded during various moves - a lot of stuff got destroyed before the almost-move to Spain - others I have hung onto because I’ve liked the idea or plot and want to tweak it when I have time. There is one manuscript I will always hang onto and that is the first children’s book I ever wrote which never got published and deservedly so but will always have a place in my heart. Much of our early work is part of the learning process and it’s good to read old manuscripts and realise how far you’ve come. The world of children’s fiction has moved on though and manuscripts that would have been snapped up ten years ago struggle to find a home now. So should I shred them all? Let go of the past and move onto new work?

And what about all those copies of children’s magazines I wrote for, filed in scruffy binders and taking up the bottom two shelves of my bookcase? Jackie, Patches, Thomas the Tank Engine, Popples, Fireman Sam, Sindy, Barbie, The Jellikins – many titles now long gone. Common sense tells me I should cast them into the incinerator but the magpie instinct in me wants to hold onto them to show my grandchildren because children’s magazines now aren’t how they used to be.

How about you? Do you hang onto every story or poem you’ve ever written or do you have a regular cull and shred them?

My children's novel Firstborn and romance novel Never Say Forever are available on Amazon now.


Lee said…
Well, I publish mine online. Does that count as shredding?
madwippitt said…
Hang onto them! They might be collectors items one day ... and if not, they're still your only record of your published work pre-digital era. I still regret not having copies of some of the short stories and Damian Darke strips I wrote for DC Thompson.
And I'm really sorry I parted company during one house move with the huge pile of old PONY Magazines dating back to the sixties which someone had kindly donated to me.
Jan Needle said…
love letters are the ones i have most trouble with. i've got them going back to my first love, janice, who was fourteen and a convent girl. come to think of it, my first love was jean rouse, when i was eight, but she refused to kiss me when i told her i loved her in the playground, and broke my heart. so, no letters there, then!

in principle, i'd say save nothing, chuck everything. in practise, i've got notebooks and mss that are yellow with age.

probably the only one i'm really glad to have is the ms of my first published short story, about ocean going tugs. very derivative, very romantic, and a memorial to the first twenty quid i ever earned from fiction!

books are not dissimilar. we don't burn books on principle (that hitler's got a lot to answer for) but i could probably house twenty homeless people if i could bear to part with some old rubbish i've filled spare spaces with over the years. i suspect that people who write are people who hoard. god knows what saint peter makes of us when we turn up at the pearly gates in pantechnicons.

incidentally, one of the books i made notes and versions and playscripts of from a very early age was treasure island. as people have asked, my reimagining of the scotsman's masterpiece is out on kindle now at a massive 99p.
Dan Holloway said…
Am I the only one who saw shreddinga nd Spain and assumed this was a post about marmalade? Anyway, a breakfast later...even thinking of throwing anything gives me the heebie-jeebies. I have thrown things away in th epast, and decades later I've thought "ooh, I'll just look up that poem I wrote when I was 16" only to find it was gone. Forever.
Karen said…
Thanks for all your comments everyone, I hadnt't even realised this post was up today, I thought I'd scheduled it for tomorrow which shows how organised I am - not! I have to admit I do find it hard to throw things away and have often regretted it after so I'm being really careful what I shred as I pack today.
Don't shred old long gone children's magazines - or not without looking them up on eBay first. Most out of print magazines have real value as ephemera! I burned a whole heap of truly beautiful love letters after a relationship went drastically wrong, and now I'm rather sorry about it - in the cold light of many years later, I could have mined them for fiction. Or is that very hard hearted of me?
Debbie Bennett said…
I have love letters in a large shoe box - together with all kinds of childhood memorabilia - concert tickets, 18th birthday cards, teenage diaries. It's a part of my life! I also have a copy of 2000AD comic which I've had since about 1983 - my then boyfriend told me to keep it as it would be worth money some day!
Karen said…
Dare I admit that I've never had a love letter? AndI have no momentos at all of my teenage years. I've lots of pictures that my kids drew when they were little though and cards they sent me. And yes, I'll hang onto those comics...
Enid Richemont said…
Have all my original manuscripts - many first written on the Amstrad (remember that?) And all my reviews, newspaper cuttings etc AND the msss of two unpublished adult novels, one of which hasn't yet made it to the computer (believe they're a magnet for moths and bookworms...)
I'm a minimalist at heart, though - well, in theory.
Karen said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Karen said…
The Amstrad 8256 with the green screen and dot matrix printer? Yep, I had one of those too :)
Having a great talent in writing is something you could really be proud of. This must be shared to other people for them to read your own masterpiece. Doing this would make it a lot easier for you to dispose off those manuscripts to reduce amount of waste in your new place. It would be a wonderful idea if you would be shredding it off and allow shredding companies to collect.
Ruby said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ruby said…
Well, I think you should keep that book, Karen. It's one of your first children's book, after all. And just what you have said, you can keep it to show your grand children the very first book you wrote. Well, instead of shredding the very first children's book you wrote.. Why not look for unusable documents that can be shredded?

Ruby Badcoe

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