No, this is not a post about language in YA fiction. “Foul matter” is the term, in the biz, for materials like manuscripts, galleys, proofs, etc., that are no longer relevant to the book-making process and get returned to the publisher by the printer. Also, I use it to refer to the piles of papers, notebooks, backs of envelopes, index cards, and Post-Its that were part of my project once upon a time but now have little to no meaning, because the book has changed so much from that first vision.
Here’s a pile of stuff related to The Lucy Variations that I tossed into the recycling bin this this morning:
Sometimes writers save this stuff for “posterity”. I have enjoyed going to special collections and looking at drafts and manuscripts of other authors. And I know there’s a special collection of YA stuff at a college in Florida. I sent some Story of a Girl material, like first pass pages, there a few years ago. But generally, my drafts make me feel so completely exposed, I can’t imagine anyone but my editor and a few trusted friends reading them without feeling like shortly there will be a knock on the door and I’ll be arrested for impersonating a writer. And I’m not sure about the idea of predicting that work will be lasting enough to warrant a record.
Some writers save it for themselves. It’s like keeping baby pictures or something, I guess. But for me, the original material bears so little resemblance to the finished work that it would be more like keeping the pictures of old boyfriends that caused lots of pain. Or, I don’t know, that’s not quite it. I guess, bottom line, it’s about letting go of what I thought the book would be, and accepting what it is.
(I do keep the computer files of past drafts, so I suppose I am keeping a record somehow. Occasionally I pull up excerpts from old drafts to use in a workshop revision talk.)
Writers: What do you do with the paper–if you use paper–related to your process?