Okay, I was surfing through my favorite blogs just now and while reading an interesting entry over at 'Romancing the Blog', something occurred to me. The writer there talks about deleting and says something about all the good stuff lying unrecoverable on computers out there. She right, but that's not why I'm posting.
Call me anal, but I almost never delete anything.
I'm sure you're all gasping at that statement, but never fear. I mean permanently delete anything. I have my 'working copy' file, and I delete a ton of things out of it while I'm editing, but I also have back-ups of the stuff I tweaked out of the working copy. They look something like this "Spectacle103104" - title, date. No big thing, and it's all still there. So when I'm looking back to see the progression, I can accurately see each edit and know why I did what I did. If I was foolish and deleted something good, it's still there somewhere. I probably have twenty or more editions of Spectacle floating around on my HD or on CD. I have fewer copies of Caldera, but I edited that one less.
You might think this is overkill, and it may very well be, but imagine for a second: It's late and you're ruthlessly pruning your manuscript. Stuff is flying all over the place, and you're really in the zone. You save your work, and go to bed. The next day, you open your file and as you're reading through your manuscript, you realize you pruned out the scene explaining the relationship between the hero and the villian. (And it was really important to character development, damn it.) If you didn't have redundant files, you just lost some awesome and pertinent writing. And for what? To pare your book down from 99K words to 97K words?
Seriously. Save everything. These days, with 80GB hard drives, a 137,000 word manuscript in MS Word doesn't even make a dent in your available space. Tweak and save.
You never know what you might need in the future. If you need a further example, look at Stephen King's "The Stand" - originally published with tons of stuff cut out of it, and published years later 'Complete and Uncut'. King made a boatload of money--both times. Bet he's pretty glad he didn't throw those extra pages away.
1 hour ago