David Schwarzenberg’s image was published on the internet.
I bet you have a store because the imagination can spread all on its own, come sun or shade, if you finish one story. I have never tried to shut that creative door. Do you have any unfinished creative writing projects? Do you have your first story? You attended a writing residential three years ago, but fell out with one of your classmates, so you don’t want to look at the notebook?
We all know a lot about a writer, so before I share my 6-step process for excavating the magic from your lost stories and getting them moving again, I want to tell you an anecdote about a writer. If you have been writing for a few years and have attended more than one class or workshop, then you have a lot of half baked stories and ideas in your desk drawer or hard drive.
His first published novel is called Carrie. He wrote a three-page first draft and then threw it in the bin because he didn’t like it. It would never sell, and it wasn’t worth wasting any more time on. Not another Stephen King analogy! I am afraid, but this one shows how easy it is to discard goldmine ideas, and it is not about craft.
The features for un-repped/unpublished authors are the most important. His wife was curious about the crumpled pages in his bin, so she took them out and read them. She wanted to know what was going to happen next. He published his debut novel after being rescued from imminent poverty and went on to have a successful career.
Abandoning a story is easy. It is difficult to be objective about our work.
It is easy to lose inspiration. It is difficult to spot the gold amongst the rejections.
It feeds into my romantic view of the first draft of a story being a living, breathing thing in the world. Can this optimism last? It is hard to see the potential when you are most likely to give up.
1 Storyhunting. We need to take on the role of treasure hunter of our own. Who uses a waste basket anymore? My process for finding the gold in the mountain of half-finished and forgotten stories that have accumulated over the last seven years of writing is here.
My creative cellar has some things in it. It is time to get your gloves on. You may be all digital, lucky you! My handwriting days have left a chest full of notebooks and A0 notepads. It is worth doing correctly if this exercise is worth doing.
There are notebooks. One drive and old computer.
There are course notes in both hard and digital form. Emails from the course teachers.
There are 2. Organising. You have to get them all into one place. Don’t worry about reading them. We are in the stock-take mode.
It is time to note down the following. I have come to the unfortunate realization that living a Rimbaudian existence, research and inspiration chasing is an essential part of swashbuckling, and that the organizing of any project is an essential part.
The inspiration was what? The title, draft and date are important.
What is the story about? What is your favourite character?
You remember how much you have already, and you remember some of the adventures along the way. You will need a spreadsheet for this.
There are more positives than negatives when it comes to reading your old work. There are 3. There is reading.
There is a reason you started this project. What was that thing? Someone? Is this an injustice? Is that a character? A response to something else? You can also celebrate how much you have learned as a writer.
You should note the bits as you go along. Maybe it is a description of a bluebell woods, or maybe it is an antagonist or a brilliant line of dialogue. It is likely that you will find something in your stories that is still relevant. If you find the spark of inspiration, it will be worth the pain to remember what an amateur writer you used to be.
Is there a better way to tell your story now that you are familiar with it? Maybe you have written a stage play that would be better as a film script or a short story. A television idea you started writing would be a better novel. There are 4. Repositioning.
The options are endless. Is there a better way to tell your story?
It might seem obvious to you, but an old playwriting tutor once told me this. Microfiction, flash fiction, novels, films, radio plays, stage plays, short film, web series, series.
The stage can be used for exploring the conflict between people. Conflict that happens within the self can be explored in the written word of novels and short stories.
Is your story in its best format? Is your main character dynamic, or is there someone else who can take over? Film can be used to explore the conflict between people and the world.
There are 5. A big picture. A tutor at a workshop once told me that the biggest problem he had with script was that it was full of characters that had situations put onto them, instead of characters that created their conditions.
The +10 rule says to think big. This time, you need to go bigger, because you lost the idea the first time. How are you going to get there now that you have confirmed the landing? What is the most extraordinary thing that could happen to this story? You could turn it into action for one of your characters.
All obstacles in the way of your story are destroyed. What are the actions you need to take to make this happen? Get rid of the energy demons in your life by cleaning your desk, eating more beans, and finishing up a project.
The action plan is the easiest step of all. You have a vision, add a date, add milestones and list the steps you need to take to complete it. Sending an email to a friend who might be interested in reading your story is one example step. There are 6. An action plan.
As you go along, close items out on the spreadsheet with a column or reporting function.