This could just as well be titled Trash That Book, but it’s a little easier to think about trashing articles. Which articles? The ones that aren’t going to make it. Maybe it happens at the idea stage. Maybe you don’t realize the article is a fail until the final draft. Write enough articles and some are going to fail. How do you know when to give up on them?
First, know that everything you write helps you improve as a writer. Experience matters. Some writing for fun is okay. On the other hand, if you don’t produce writing you can share, you won’t look like a writer for others. You need to find a balance between writing for practice and writing for profit.
The Idea File Stage
This is the easiest place to drop articles. You haven’t done much with them yet. If you’re using a table of contents for your idea file, it’s easy to spot trouble. Duplicate ideas don’t have much hope. Off topic is bad too. As you work on the ideas in the file, you will notice when you come to an idea that never goes anywhere.
Your first line of defense is noticing that an idea for an article sucks before you work on it. Kill the bad ideas before wasting time on them.
I add new ideas to the bottom of my ideas file. As I go through it adding details and content, some ideas grow close enough to rough draft articles that I can promote them. When I don’t have enough rough draft articles for a subject, I’ll go to the ideas file and start grabbing articles from the top; the oldest ideas.
This leads to the second way to spot ideas that aren’t worth keeping. If you have at least a few dozen ideas in the file and one of them makes it to the top of the file with little or no content, it’s probably a good bet you should trash it.
You can tell a first draft isn’t making it when you can’t get it looking like a reasonable article. You have several disconnected points or only one point that you just ramble on about. The post you’re reading now could be one of those. It’s only point is that some articles don’t come together and you’re better off trashing them and moving on.
Another sign that an article may not be worthwhile is when the first draft has no headings. Consider viewing your topic from one level higher.
You shouldn’t encounter too many bad articles at this level, but it happens. You wrote the first draft without worrying about every little problem. If you can’t fix those little problems after several tries, the article may not be worth the effort.
You made it! You finished the article. But now you can’t find a use for it. It doesn’t fit any of your websites and you can’t find an external publication. Don’t throw it away. Store it and move on. You had some interest in the topic or you wouldn’t have written it. Over time, you may build up a collection of related articles that you can then put to use.
Not a pleasant topic this, but sometimes you must sacrifice what doesn’t work to be more productive. Strangely enough, I had considered trashing this article.