Monday, October 30, 2017

Trunk Diving for Fun & Profit

Whenever I get an anthology request or opportunity my first reaction is to open my trunk and sort through the never-accepted-yet stories and incomplete drafts to see if any of them might be close to the requestor's guidelines. If so I then try to figure out why that piece remains in the trunk and, if possible edit it to bend the story nearer the guidelines.  This does not always result in a new sale, but it does give me another opportunity to run this refreshed piece through other editors.  Once or twice this strategy has worked, and in both cases.

Is it dishonest to pass off rejected (but edited) works as new? I think not.  Neither do I think editing a first draft is dishonest:  Both are refinements of original work, albeit in the one case it is a part of a continuous process and in the former a process interrupted by a few months or, in most cases, years. I feel no shame in admitting this. The market is fickle and sometimes the time just wasn't right.

My other concern when an opportunity arrises is spinning a new story that adheres to the guidelines but is in a universe I've created for another series.  I see no conflict unless the original series editor has also asked for a new story, in which case loyalty comes in to play:  I simply won't abandon an editor simply because another market has a better offer.  I just write something else.

But diving in my trunk sometimes reveals a piece long forgotten (and multiply rejected) but still has a conceit I think is worth preserving.  When I can find no grievous errors or amateurish phrasing I might do a little polish and send it on the rounds again.  Sometimes this finds a receptive editor and at others even more rejections that sink it back into the trunk.

I often kid myself that I write more for my post-mortum anthology than any piece that might appear in my lifetime*.  But that is simply rationalization; most writers I know produce much more text than ever is published,which is not bad because each failed story was an opportunity to further hone their craft or try something new.  It seems that the more drafts I produce the better I become as a writer and as a person, often discovering emotional depths I only later realize while doing a reading and having tears fill my eyes as I struggle to choke out the words.  On occasion someone in the audience will join me, but at least they do not laugh at my mawkish behavior.

I guess I inadvertently reveal too much of myself when I write.

*Certainly the number of pieces in my trunk attest to that.


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