by Scott Rhoades
Anybody who has written for a while has files full of false starts, deleted scenes, and scrapped stories. We write them, realize they're going nowhere, and then we put them away because we can't bear to throw them in the can.
These scraps, fragments, and failed masterpieces are useful, though. If they never make it into a story, you can still use them for practice.
Say, for example, you want to see how it feels to write in present tense. You've never done it before and you aren't sure how you feel about it, but it might be fun to give it a try. You could try it out on your WIP, but that's risky. If you don't like it, you have to go back and fix it.
Just like a musician or any other artist, we need to practice. We should stretch our abilities by exercising and trying new techniques that are not comfortable for us yet. Those old files make the perfect exercise materials. We don't have to waste the energy of creating something new just for a work out that we'll probably toss later. The material's there already. All we have to do is play with the words that we already wrote.
So next time you wonder what it would feel like to write from a different point of view, or you want to practice voice, or do some description exercises that are far too detailed for the story you're hoping to publish, why not take one of those bits of writing from your files, maybe even a full short story that isn't going anywhere, and use it to to play around? You won't lose anything, and--who knows?--you just might discover that the story wasn't as useless as you had thought.