To trunk or not to trunk, that is the question

Recently I bought a new computer, and with that new computer, I upgraded some software, and I unwittingly bought myself a problem.

Rewind seven years.

You see, my very first scribblings were done in Word Perfect. The version I was using was already ancient, as was my then-computer, but I spent a year and a half writing the obligatory words of crap before I upgraded to another computer, and Word 2003. Wow. That was seven years ago. Trouble was, Word 2003 wouldn’t read my Word Perfect files, so I switched on the old-old computer and salvaged the current work and imported it into Word.

Never mind the rest. Those were old scribblings, and they were crap anyway.

Fast forward seven years. The old Vaio I had in 2003 got replaced by a new one, and a new version of Word, and to my surprise–and here comes my problem–Word 2010 reads those old Word Perfect files!

Yeah, a lot of them are crap. A lot of them are notes, and half-finished stuff. But there is also the first serious novel I ever finished (there are others, which shall remain unmentioned). It’s a rambling, meandering 170K beast of a thing which has some serious style issues. The adverbs are not too bad, but oh dear, the exclamation marks.

But you know what?

There is a lot of deeply touching emotional stuff in that novel. Back in 2003, I did salvage the scenes of how these three brothers of a dysfunctional family tell their mother that they didn’t watch the oldest brother enough and he went and ruined the family business. I did salvage the scenes of where the second-oldest brother spends all night trying to find money to pay his domestic staff. I did salvage the scene where he goes alone to a strange city to find his missing brother. But to see all those scenes in the story just makes it seem such a pity to declare that novel dead-and-never-to-be-resurrected.

I’m sure there are people out there screaming that everything you write in your early days is crap. Sure, it is, style-wise. The plot is meandering and never gets to any kind of point, but the thing is that I can see where to kick the story to make it work. And it has great emotional potential.

It’s not ground-breaking stuff, genre-wise. It’s a planetary romance fairly similar in scope to some of the early Miles Vorkorsigan books. It’s a human story about the characters in a world with wormholes and easy space travel (even though the characters are too poor to take part in much of it).

To trunk or not to trunk, that is the question…

So what do you do when faced with this decision. How do you decide to trunk (or not) your works?

P.S. My old-old computer, aged 13, with its old version of Word Perfect, and my old Vaio, aged 7, are still in perfect working order.

6 comments on “To trunk or not to trunk, that is the question

  1. I would say: if the premise still inspires you or moves you, take the nuggets and start again from those. (And it sounds like it does; if it left you cold, I don’t think you’d have written this post.)

    I think all my stories stay alive until the point when the ideas within them no longer beg to be told (by me). I still have several good ideas padded by lots and lots of horrible prose; in that horrible prose are a few moments of good stuff that I want to retain for the moment, next year or next decade, when I’m ready to revisit the idea. So I keep the whole snarly mess.

    • I agree. Trunking sounds too definite. I have a little trouble with people who advocate that early material should never see the light of day. Sometimes the execution leaves a lot to be desired, but the story itself is salveagable. It requires time to fix, of course, and if you’re not going to spend that time, then the trunk is probably the only option.

  2. Wow, what a surprise! I honestly thought you were going to say something about it not working or being able to read what you had salvaged, but technology can be surprising like that.

    I don’t know if I could ever trunk anything. I’d feel like I was killing something. Including those horrible pieces that I wrote back in high school, which will never see the light of day ever again, because even after all this time I feel I can learn something from them and perhaps there is still a spark there.

    Or maybe just using them as nostalgia items so I can say ‘Ha! I can’t believe I wrote that’ and then I can have a good old laugh at myself.

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