My Work in the Trash

07 Jan

Following a year of loss, I begin a year of change.

I am purging.

For some purging is no big deal. For some people, a new year begins with a clean slate; but when an author purges . . . well, people must die.

Characters. Personalities. Stories.


Stories I have invested hours creating now lie unwanted in the trash.


Magazines articles from my freelancing days ten years ago: ideas and articles that I pitched, and pitched, and pitched some more. I tossed them first because they were the oldest.

The pages from my short stories-the tightly compressed vignettes-fluttered as I made another pile. Stories I had edited shifting tense, timing, place, and perspective. I had saved them all. The first person account. The (harder-for-me-to-write) third person account. Things daved them for “one day.”

Be gone.

Next up, the manuscripts. The Mack Daddy of my time. So much time held together with a desiccated rubber band.

Goodbye. You are not meant to be read by anyone but me.

These things hurt my friend.

They hurt because no one – not even me- can count the number of hours I have invested in the pages that accumulated in stacks in the floor. I do not want to run that total or crunch those numbers because were I to do so more tears would fall.

Years of my life now rest in the trash, awaiting the weekly pickup. But that is okay, really . . . everything is for a reason. I am purging, God is pruning. Just wait.

The news of this purge hurts my loyal readers (thank y’all, I love you to pieces). I suspect purging hurts the characters I have created. These characters believe they could have been more, better, stronger. However the truth is, they can not.

We will get through this. This purging must happen.

Goodbye. So long. I won't miss you. Really, I won't.

Goodbye. So long. I won’t miss you. Really, I won’t.

I threw out old manuscripts of published work. Like the one for Stress-Free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author. My plans were to revise the book, update the content, especially the social media chapters. But ya know what, I am not wasting my time. I wrote Stress Free Marketing specifically for those intent on self-publishing their work, imagining that most were hungry to learn how to market their work. If someone had written this book when I was starting out . . . well.

What I learned after teaching workshops and speaking to emerging authors is that most self-published authors are either too afraid of marketing, or think they already know everything they need to know. My good intentions, to help the emerging author, may have helped some, but at the end of the day many self-published authors didn’t want to invest $ 12.00 to learn how to sell books. Or, they wanted to trade me a copy of their book for a copy of mine. As a result, Stress-Free Marketing is no longer in print. It is an e book only. Why in the world would I invest my time in updating a book, regardless of how wonderful, just to earn a couple hundred dollars?


Fellow authors have written nooooo when I announced my purging on Facebook. It has been said that authors should never throw anything away.

I beg to differ.

These days writing leaves a lot to be desire. These days some writing belongs in the trash.

Y’all know I speak the truth. Y’all have read books-some by authors whom you adore-that leave you feeling like you have wasted your time. I do not want to be that kind of author. Ever.

I no longer believe that everything should be saved, that an author never throws anything away. 

Sometimes an author must send papers sailing into the trashcan because she is tired of toting around the past. Sometimes an author must swallow her pride (yes, it is pride) and unclamp the shackles of bad writing. Sometimes that same bad writing must be purged to make way for good writing.

Readers are hungry, perhaps even famished for a good story, a believable character. Readers are weary, listen up emerging and veteran authors, they are weary of reading the same story-line again and again.

You see, all of those stories, the articles, the young adult book, the novel with the horrible idea, they needed to die.

They needed to die.

Times change. I must change. I can not continue to hold on to the writer I once was.

I must endure this excruciating pain.

I must focus.

I must look at the years that have accumulated in the trash even though it hurts. And believe me, it hurts.

I must look at the years in the trash and say Renea, why did it take you so long to take out the trash?

What did I keep? 01072015

I kept my heart. My journals. The spring from which I have forgotten. For you see, during the years between I wanna-be-published and I-have-been-published-by-a-University-Press, I stopped writing in my journals. Beloveds, within the cover of my journals beats the heart of the best people on earth. That is where I must return. Not to the short-stories, the fowled magazine articles, and the failed manuscripts. I must return to the spring and sit beside the cool waters. I must listen and observe instead of force and manipulate.

If I am to continue walking down the author’s path. I must purpose to become a better author.

I must improve.

I must sharpen.

I must become better.

I must be . . . more than I am. That has always been my goal as an author, that each book better written than the last.

You, my friends, deserve that from me.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches; Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. A Hardscrabble Christmas. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. Email her through her website at She welcomes new friends on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter Here.



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2 responses to “My Work in the Trash

  1. Donald Tadman

    January 7, 2015 at 8:07 pm

    That must have been hard to do Renea, I’ve never thrown more than perhaps 30 pages off writing away at any one time and that been because I’ve re-written that story or condensed the ideas or made character notes in one off my journals.

    I am still full off hope that one day one or more off these characters may rise, I often think of the lonely vampire I left sitting in a room gazing into a mirror from his alternate universe into ours where >>>>> ??

    There you have it ideas! They are the part i cannot throw away, writing stories over, was my first draft better after all? I guess one day I may throw actual stories away but with a 3 terabyte back up drive on top off a network drive. I know nothing I have ever put into the computer will be thrown away by me. However I do write with pen first on paper I find that works for me and seems to create a baseline story, I rewrite from.

    Throwing away whole stories lock, stock and barrel, perhaps it is a cleansing. A good purge but the sadness off ending those characters before they ever quite made it to the world.

    Well done you’ve done what i never could, oddly reading this made me pull up the Kenny Rogers “When your sitting at The Table”, Perhaps the words off wisdom there apply to writing.

    Thanks for sharing Renae,

  2. Jennie

    January 8, 2015 at 12:31 am

    Here, here, Renae! And really, it’s not wasted time. All writing is practice, in both the training sense and the Zen sense. It’s compost, it goes back from whence it came, and the characters – the strong and vibrant ones – will come back, whether you want them to or not!


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