I’ve been writing fiction off-and-on for the better part of 22 years and I keep EVERYTHING. I think historically I’ve not deliberately trashed anything I’ve written, good, bad or ugly, and have only lost two serious pieces that I regret losing, likely after a PC upgrade a decade-and-a-half back. I remember the names of the stories, “Ride” and “Scars”; the latter one thankfully re-manifested itself two years ago in the form of lyrics for a song.
That said, I’m happy to’ve written forward viable words for my novel, words that at the time they were first typed up years ago did not seem to quite fit into the main narrative. It was more like exercise writing or background material; non-chapter work that simply allowed me to brainstorm in free-form to explore the characters and the world they occupied, getting the chronology of past events straight in the overall timeline, making sure character motivations were solid, etc.
For this project I had written a “bible”, some 6000 words worth of reference and supplemental material to help me navigate the tricky science of this trans-human concept of vampires. I worked tirelessly to strip away all the usual elements and played-out tropes of traditional vampire fiction, burning away the supernatural in favor of the biological and scientific.
Despite essentially starting from the beginning again, I have so much to play with all because I did a hefty amount of “pre-narrative” writing some years back, as well as actual narrative material that will be used for chapters in the loosely re-outlined Book One. Although I’m not surprised that it pays to write it forward, I am certainly glad it does.