Is it time to burn your manuscript?

Early last week I travelled from my home in Murray Bridge to Clare in the mid north of South Australia. I drove there to support my daughter who was having trouble coping with a health issue (she’s on the mend, we hope).

As I travelled through the beautiful wine growing region of the Barossa Valley I revelled in the wonderful autumn weather. Almost felt like stopping many times to write a few poems. As I moved away from the valley into the wheat and sheep country to the north the atmosphere changed dramatically. There was smoke everywhere. Every second farm was shrouded in smoke from paddocks being burnt by the farmers. This burning off occurs at this time every year as the landholders prepare their fields for sowing a in a few weeks’ time. The rubbish has to be dealt with first, hence the burn off.

It reminded me of how we must treat our manuscripts. Now, I guess we all have those moments of despair with a story, poem, article or novel when all we want to do is scrunch up the paper and heave it into the fire. The farmer is not burning the good earth into which he plans to sow the seed. The burning is to rid the area of weeds and other rubbish. Our first (and often subsequent drafts) usually contain a great deal of “rubbish” writing – words, sentences and paragraphs that need to be “burned off” to allow the good seed – the best of our writing – to grow, thrive and produce a bumper crop.

The first draft – with all the accompanying rubbish – needs to happen. In later drafts through careful editing and rewriting the beautiful words will grow unhindered by weeds and other rubbish.

Good writing.


One Response to “Is it time to burn your manuscript?”

  1. Ken Rolph says:

    I believe the traditional method was to leave your manuscript near the fireplace so they maid would “accidentally” use it to light the fire next morning.