Biggest Mistakes New Writers Make #1 – Avoid the Dreaded Delete Frenzy

At a recent NJ Author’s talk on “Getting Published”, a group of published authors discussed the biggest mistakes they think new writers make.  Boy did they have a long list!

The panel consisted of: Jonathan Maberry, Mike McPhail, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Jon Gibbs, Jennifer R. Hubbard, and Kristin Battestella.

As always, I love learning from mistakes others have made, and I truly appreciate them sharing what NOT TO DO.

Rather than making this an insanely long post— and since Friday is now open—

This is going to be my new “Friday Night” slot… Biggest Mistakes New Writers make.

Mistake Number one:



It is really easy as a new writer to get frustrated, and go on a delete frenzy.  The problem is, the days of crumbling up paper and throwing it into a garbage can are over.  You can’t take your deleted file out of the trash, smooth it out, and look at it again.  Once you delete… it is gone.

Deleting in a frenzy can lead to loss of very valuable work.  Especially if you are really emotional when you are editing (we authors never do that, right?)

Trust me, you may think everything you’ve written stinks now, but you may find you need to refer back to part of it later.  Even if you don’t use it, it is part of your back story, and you may need to review it to keep your story consistent.

The Author Panel suggested keeping a side file and don’t actually delete anything. Just drag and drop.  If you never want to see it again, just don’t open the file.  But if you do—

From my own experience, I know I always change my mind.  There is a huge scene near the end of my novel where one character gets his memory back.  I have re-written the scene five times, and they are all dramatically different.  You know where I landed?  With my very first draft.  I was putting so many plot twists and turns in the revisions that the scene became confusing.  I did need to re-write it a little, but I stuck with my original idea.  Believe me, a year later, I was glad I had a copy to refer back to.

Avoid the dreaded Delete Frenzy.  Make a cozy little file. Call it a nasty name if it makes you feel better.  Someday, you may thank me.  🙂

Jonathan Maberry:

Mike McPhail:

Danielle Ackley-McPhail:

Jon Gibbs:

Jennifer R. Hubbard:

Kristin Battestella:


35 responses to “Biggest Mistakes New Writers Make #1 – Avoid the Dreaded Delete Frenzy

  1. Great tip! I tend to get angry and do that too. Thank goodness for undo buttons! Now I just move the “crappy parts” to the bottom of the page just in case. Looking forward to reading more posts. 😉

  2. When I edit, I always email the whole document to myself, complete with revisions. That way I can plot backwards through the changes i’ve made if I need to go back.
    A bit tedious at times but it seems to work for me. And I don’t lose anything. 🙂

  3. Sage advice, Jennifer. Looking forward to this new series! 🙂

  4. Delete insanity often occurs with ME when I’ve had a bad day, so yes, it often does occur with strong emotion. It is NOT, as you’ve said, always a good idea. Thanks for the reminder 😉

  5. Sounds like a good idea. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  6. I see it mentioned above, but I am also a Scrivener convert. USing this, you can write as many drafts as you like and compare them all at once if you wish. No need to delete and lose.

  7. I back up my files every two weeks, too—named with the date of the back up. It’s a lot of files, yes, but it’s also shows when the work started and how it progressed.

    And I’ve recycled a number of “cut bits” from the works, thus the name of my storage file for them: cut bits for recyling. 🙂

    • It’s actually safer this way. I just took something from my first draft of Last Winter Red and placed it back in because I wasn’t crazy about the way the editor wanted to cut the scene. The original was shorter, so I’m going with it.

  8. That’s another nice thing about Scrivener–the snapshot option. It saves a “snapshot” of what you’ve written, so that if you change it, and then want to go back to the original, you can.

  9. Good Advice. I have one scene that I deleted out of my first novel, deleted our of my second novel . . . BUT I used in in my third. And that felt great. The trick is to label text so you can find it two years later.

  10. If I find that I’ve deleted something that I later need, I have several copies to refer to. Great advice!!

  11. Oh, yes, I’ve been burnt this way many, many times! Sometimes even unintentionally (and scrabbling about in the online wastepaper basket did not help). Question: how come in police films they can always track down what the suspect wrote from Day One on his/her laptop, but I can never retrace something important I deleted just a couple of days ago?

  12. I have a delete file, too, where all of my chopped bits go. I’ve actually used some of them in the second novel in my trilogy. I guess you could call me a pack rat.

  13. I used to have this problem, since I’m a perfectionist. Always threw everything away, including drawings and I’d start all over again. Eventually, I trained myself to keep my horrible drafts, but it’s easier said than done. 😐

    • Ha! Give in to the endless kept drafts! If it makes you feel better, file them all in the same place so it doesn’t look like as much.

      • That’s true. I do save some of them on my hard drive, but I still have the paper drafts somewhere inside a folder of Doom. Lol xD!

  14. This is good advice. I have a word document full of bits that I have pulled out and I keep them just in case. I never know, I’m a girl that often changes her mind.

  15. Personally, I always have multiple versions – so if I’ve deleted something in a fit of peke, it should be back there somewhere. And of course, if the file corrupts, hopefully not too much is gone.