We’ve all had moments where we’ve thought “This story is so bad that I’m going to set it on fire and roast marshmallows over the flames.” The story doesn’t even need to actually be bad – maybe it’s great but you’ve submitted it so many times that you think it’ll never find a home, or maybe you just can’t get it finished and think only the cleansing power of fire will help. Or maybe you’re simply having a bad day and need to destroy something.
Thankfully now that computers exist, instead of having stacks of paper that can easily be set aflame or ripped into tiny bits, we can merely save those stories in a folder and never look at them again.
Sometimes when I’m in a creative slump I like to wander through my ‘unfinished’ files and see what was going on in my head back then. Why did I abandon that story? Was that actually a terrible idea? Can this be reworked and made into something better?
Today, instead of going through all these random titles* alone, I thought I’d share some with you.
Groundwork : An idea about magical coffee that I used for a very specific submissions call (but never finished in time). Honestly, thinking about it now, I might want to take that magical aspect and put it into another story. Also, I really wish I had magical coffee right now.
City of Ghosts : I have a great chapter 1 written, but just can’t get chapter 2 to work out. This has gone through numerous re-writes and re-casts, and I still can’t quite make it work. Someday I’ll take the time to work on this… someday…
My Mind Makes Things Go Boom : The title says it all. There’s basically 200 words written in this story and nothing about the plot or even what the main character’s name is. I have no idea where I’m going with this, and I’m pretty sure I thought of the title, realized I had nothing else, and gave up.
The Score : A novella that intertwines theft with a musical motif, written when I was in university. I think fondly of it, but oh dear does it need some major work.
No Problem : I have an original character that I adore (from a different, unpublished universe), and I wanted to write a story about him. It didn’t quite work out and the ending has yet to be typed. But I swear I’ll come to back to this one day…
Missing Mountains : Again, I had one small thought and hoped that it would blossom into an actual plot. It didn’t. But maybe some day it will…
Apologies to Patrick Stewart : The story of my first trip to New York City, where all I wanted to do was see a play starring Patrick Stewart. It’s memorable, but not in the way you’d think (spoiler, I never actually met or talked to Patrick Stewart, but I became a bit of a celebrity at the theatre where the show was). This was sent in for a travel story about helpful locals, but never got picked, so perhaps I’ll re-work it for my autobiography (which will come out when I’m 80).
And that’s just a taste of all the works-in-progress cluttering up my hard-drive at the moment. If I’m honest, it actually did give my creative brain a boost. Heck, I might have worked out a plot for Missing Mountains just now…
So instead of putting that story in the recycling bin, hold onto it. After a while you might look at it and realize it’s got potential. Or maybe it’ll give you a laugh. Or maybe you’ll realize that you really need to start taking more detailed notes because what the heck does that even mean?
*Note: this is why you should always try to name your work something interesting, so that by simply reading the name you know what it’s about. I have a few file names I look at and have no clue what might be inside, while other names bring back those ideas as plain as day.