Okay, you sit down to write. A couple of paragraphs into your story (or article), you realize things aren’t going the way you would like. Do you delete everything you’ve just written and start fresh? NO!
Even if what you’ve gotten down on paper isn’t the exact course you wanted to take, you have two options, and both involve keeping what’s already there!
First Option: Continue writing and see where this sudden spur of change will take you. You could still write it again, from the angle you’ve first envisioned, and there’s nothing that says you can’t! Then you’ll have two stories instead of one!
Second Option: Stop! SAVE what you already have, and begin again, with more insight into how you want to proceed.
Both options are beneficial. The first one gives you two complete stories and also let’s your creative juices have free reign – them to go on that unexpected journey into spontaneity. The second one gives you the start of something to work on later, or even bits you can ‘steal’ and add into other works, if they’re fitting.
But, the main thing I’m trying to get across is that YOU NEVER DELETE ANYTHING. I don’t care if it’s one line that you wrote. Is it decent? Can you use it for something else? Why throw it out?! If you let that little sliver of thought alone for awhile, when you come back to it (possibly at random), you might get a spark of inspiration from it! (I’ve done this many times with poetry.)
Even drafts! Don’t save over the last draft you had, especially if you’re doing a major edit and are cutting out HUGE chucks at a time. If you would want to go back and retrieve something you didn’t want to delete, guess what? That part is now gone! Save your various drafts, and add numbers to the file name so you don’t have to change it (Title 1; Title 2; etc.).
Another cool trick where you can benefit from various drafts is multiple markets. You can write a flash fiction story and sell it to a flash market, and you can expand the same story and send it to short story market (watch your contracts though, because some places have revision stipulations), or take it even further and make it a novel! If you write for various age groups, you can revise accordingly and WHAM! you now have multiple pieces and many drafts. This can increase your submission count, which in turn means you can increase your acceptance count.
This can also work with revisions. Say you have a story that’s been sitting in your writing folder for a long time. Maybe you wrote it for a specific anthology or magazine, and have never had a use for it after, why not revise it and change it up a bit? You can take the characters (if you love them) and put them in a new scene or setting. Change the conflict, change the age group, change whatever you want! But, it’s a quick and easy way to have more stories to submit and market, when you’re pressed for time.
Above all, remember, even when your writing is in a state of limbo, it still has value and possible future use. Don’t throw away your imagination, take it out, reform it, and make it an entirely different masterpiece! A masterpiece you wouldn’t have if you’d hit the delete button.