The Paper-full Office

It’s time to put my office back together, after emptying it for new carpet, but I cringe to re-store all the boxes of old manuscript drafts and files. I’m wondering what to keep and what to chuck?

Even the tax man only makes me keep my paperwork three years. Am I just being precious keeping all these manuscript drafts of my published books, not to mention multiple drafts of many unpublished titles?

I’m so far distant from a paperless office I’m out the other side. In fact, adding much more paper, I will be – on the far side of the door. I truly don’t mind lots of books and paper stuff, but… seriously, it’s time to cull.

Surely even well-known authors who donate their work and boxes of manuscript to the Lu Rees Archives don’t keep everything? Or perhaps they do and that’s why they donate their life work when still living, to get the boxes out of their homes.

With that thought, I ducked into the website of the Lu Rees Archive to get an idea of what they do hold. Heaps, it seems, and, very interestingly, they also tell you how to look after your papers. I discovered I’m breaking all the taboos and shortening my paperwork’s life span by using metal pins, staples and rubber bands amongst other no-nos. The website explains that “metal rusts very quickly and leaves permanent marks. Rubber bands quickly disintegrate, leaving marks. Self-stick removable notes easily fall off, and when they do remain, may shift from the desired spot and leave a sticky residue. Sticky tape eventually loses its sticking capability and leaves marks as well as a residue. Liquid paper and correction tape wear off and crack.

One great and surprising tip recommends using HB pencil to label your files etc, because pencil lasts for centuries and doesn’t damage like inks and pens. Lots to learn if fame ever finds me and my work.

But, since I’m not famous, yet, and running out of room, perhaps a mini cull would suffice.

How many or much do you keep of old drafts, notes and paperwork from your manuscripts? Is there a good reason to keep all or any of it? Please let me know your method and ideas in the comments?

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Corinne King

A great post Chris. Really made me laugh but I have no solutions or advice I’m afraid, except agreeing with the rusty staples . . . I found some the other day. C.x

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November 14, 2012 at 7:09 pm
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Elizabeth Jane

I just had to go through a culling process myself. As long as you have a digital file that is backed up somewhere, get rid of it!

November 15, 2012 at 7:19 am
    christinemareebell" alt="christinemareebell">


    Liz, you’re right. I know moving house is the best excuse for a ruthless culling too. I need to keep the contracts etc, and I like to keep the roughs of illustrations too, but time to get rid of those excess hard-copy drafts. I must have them all digitally anyway. I never delete all the versions, just rename, number etc.

    November 16, 2012 at 8:34 am
Alison Reynolds" alt="Alison Reynolds">

Alison Reynolds

Hi Chris.
I try and keep my paper copies to a minimum. I used to hold onto hard copies, then realised that I never used them again and would go to the digital copy. I keep my notebooks that show how a story was formed, plus recipes, shopping lists, unknown telephone numbers.They are much more interesting to me than yellowing paper with rusty staple.
Good luck with your culling!

November 15, 2012 at 5:44 pm
    christinemareebell" alt="christinemareebell">


    Hi Alison,
    Oh notebooks, they’re another space drain, but I hate to throw them out. I do like to see the story development and it’s fun to look back sometimes at the original ideas and see how very altered is the finished book.
    I am going to diligently keep down paper copies from now on. My fingers are aching because there’s just way too much for my inadequate shredder!


    November 16, 2012 at 8:36 am
angelasunde" alt="angelasunde">


Hi Chris, I also just read that advice on the Lu Rees archives. Such a great post! There is so much paper in our house I don’t know where to start. Perhaps a folder for each book with limited space? At the moment I have heaps more than that.

November 19, 2014 at 11:24 am
christinemareebell" alt="christinemareebell">


Thanks, Angela. Moving house last year was a huge impetus to me to clean out a heap of old manuscripts too. Freed up the filing cabinet and archive boxes considerably. Though I couldn’t part with the reams of paper from my historical research. Or the multitudinous notebooks!
It is mounting up again all too quickly. 🙂

November 21, 2014 at 11:04 am

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