Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What To Do With Your Failed Stories


I've just spent a day looking through a small fraction of the stalled, interrupted, and incomplete stories in my files, trying to decide what I want to put my hand to next.  And it put me in mind of a couple of questions that new writers rarely think to ask:

What should I do with all the failed stories I've accumulated over the years of trying to learn to write?  Should I throw them out or what?  

And the answer is:  Keep 'em. 

Yes, you'll probably write twenty new stories for every one that you resurrect from the mouldering heaps of paper that infest your writing space.  But there are two reasons to keep your failed fiction.

The first is that there's something in each story that spoke to you strongly enough for you to make the attempt.  You didn't have the chops to bring that thing out at the time.  But as you grow stronger and craftier as a writer, what isn't clear to you now will become obvious to your older self.  Those endless leaves of prose will form a thick, rich compost from which new flowers can grow.

The second is that I knew a writer who cleared away all his old paper . . . and then stopped writing for several years.  The writer's subconscious is always looking for excuses to not write.  Don't make it easy for the little bastard.

That's all.  Except to say that with electronic storage as cheap as it is now, there's no reason for your desk to look as cluttered as mine.  I've heard tell there's a thing called the "paperless office."  You should look into it.

It's probably too late for me.

Above:  Yes, that's my desk.  Imagine what the rest of the room looks like.


1 comment:

TheOFloinn said...

Looks like my desk; and I know what the rest of my room looks like.

I have a file of stories I started when I was in high school. A few years back I resurrected one called The January Dancer. You're absolutely right that there will always be something in the dross.