The Books Under the Bed


by Janis Patterson

Every writer has them… not literally under the bed, of course, physically lurking amongst the dust bunnies and out of season sweater boxes. I’m talking about the carcasses of partially finished stories that were pushed aside for some reason or another, or just didn’t work out, or weren’t in the right time for that story to be written.
I know that I have more than my share. I like to work on several stories at once when I’m doing my own spec stuff while anything with a contract and guaranteed payment gets full and unbroken attention. But… sometimes what seems to have been such a promising potential has shriveled and died on a distanced re-reading. On the other hand, some seem to have improved, like brandy that is fully aged. Still others, though, make me wonder that I ever dared take up a pen.
I’m primarily of Scottish ancestry, and we are a thrifty people who save what is useful. I know that when I have put aside some, especially one I love, for the exigencies of paying work, I think ‘I’ll come back to this when I need to write and don’t have any good ideas.’ The only problem with that is there are already too many good ideas (to say nothing of bad/unworkable ones!) flying toward me. I must admit, I don’t understand the people (especially those who call themselves writers) who wonder how to get ideas. The world is brimful of them – a five minute walk anywhere should garner you more ideas, mostly workable, than you could use in a couple of months. They pile up like flood-carried driftwood against a bridge, just waiting for attention. Sometimes they wrap around together and create new ideas… ooops. Better remember to keep this column family-friendly.
I doubt if anyone today keeps many if any partial books under their physical bed, but they do accumulate on hard drives everywhere. I have a re-writeable CD or two just brimming with ideas, notes, chapters, whatever on any number of books. If I were to write all of them – pretending here that all are worth rewriting – without adding anything new I estimate I would be working at least until I was 170-something years old. That idea is just plain daunting.
 I hope this post doesn’t make you think that I’m one of those wanna-be writers who writes all the time yet never really produces anything. No, I’m a working professional and turn out at least two and more usually three complete and finished books a year. It’s just that sometimes I take wrong turns, or overreach myself, or am lured away by the siren song of a lucrative contract. There are just so many ideas, and so little time…

Perhaps I should be buried with my laptop… but only if there’s a strong internet connection. And there’s an idea… what if a famous (I wish!) self publishing author whose books continue to show up regularly at the ebook venues but no one alive can be found to be putting them up and what if…. NO! I can’t. I won’t! Someone – please stop me before I plot again!

(By the way, A KILLING AT EL KAB, a Janis Patterson mystery, and CURSE OF THE EXILE, a Janis Susan May Scottish Victorian Gothic Romance, are on sale for only $1.99 each at most major ebook outlets through 18 February)

Comments

Susan Oleksiw said…
Interesting post, and certainly timely for all writers. I've stopped printing out mss that I've abandoned. I used to try to return to them but it never works for me. If I left it unfinished, it will remain so because I'm no longer the person who wrote that story. I have new ideas to pursue, and I've grown and changed as a writer. I have kept the mss on my laptop, but I'm starting to think about deleting them. I hate to say goodbye to something I worked hard on but when it's time, it's time.
Morgan Mandel said…
I'm almost through writing one of those stories that had gone by the wayside, which I resurrected. It's a thriller, but I had put it aside when I got in the mood to write romances. I also have a romance started and unfinished, because another compelled me to write instead.
I don't print as much as I used to, but my earliest manuscripts were piled in a box that had once been the Costco-sized box of baby wipes. So yeah, I remember writing those early MS's when my kids were really little. Now I have a cabinet where I can store stuff. Progress! LOL
D Jess said…
Thank you Janis. Your article made me think I should re-visit the box full of Mum's hand written stories that we brought back from England after she passed. The box has been in my closet for over 10 years! I did type and submit 3 to smashwords several years ago. So maybe I should take the plunge, read and type a few more!
Like a lot of other writers, I don't print out my work anymore. There's just too much of it. I do save the print editions of published work on book shelves however and I do take pride in them. But not everything I've written has been published and probably shouldn't be. However, hundreds of articles, poems, short stories and books have been I'm happy to say.

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