I'm much too sleepy to be intelligent today, so I'll leave the talk on Dorothy L. Sayers and other golden age mystery writers until next week. For Saturday, I give you an exercise -- one I recently went through myself.
Anyone who is a writer, or wants to be a writer, has been collecting stories and ideas for quite a while. You may have rough drafts lying around, or partial stories, or outlines, or just ideas. Whether they are physically on paper, or on your hard drive, or just in your head, we refer to these as "trunk stories."
Technically, I suppose that a trunk story is a story you've actually finished, but either never did anything with it, or you got discouraged after a round of rejections and put it in the trunk never to be seen again. However, I include any story you may have abandoned -- including drafts and ideas.
We abandon stories for lots of reasons. Not all of those reasons are good. The story was too hard to write. Couldn't think of what else to do it with it. Got bored. Had another spiffier idea. Ran out of markets.
The thing about most of these reasons is that they go away with time. Seriously. If a story has been in a trunk long enough, you may well find that you now suddenly have better ideas for it. Suddenly you know what's wrong. Or maybe you can see there was nothing wrong with it -- there just weren't any markets that fit back when you wrote it. But there are new markets now. Or there still aren't markets but it's fun, and you can publish it on your blog or in a collection for Kindle.
So today's exercise is to clean out that trunk. Take a look, dig things out of wherever you put them. Or take notes from the dim memory of the virtual trunk in your head. Look at all of the ideas, even the stupid ones. And list them -- list all the finished stories, and the mostly done stories, and the partial stories, and the ideas. Take an inventory.
Is there anything there you might want to publish on your blog on a Sample Sunday? Anything you now have a hot new idea for? Anything you might cannibalize to make another story better?
And if you're a young writer, or you just don't have much of a trunk, I challenge you to start filling that trunk. Takes some risks. Write up some ideas, some openings to stories. Half-baked ideas. Because it's just the trunk, you are free to try things out. Maybe start an idea that you don't know how to finish. Do something stupid.
Give yourself some creative raw materials.
Because, in this new world of publishing, you're going to need it. You will need things to "feed the beast" of publishing, but also to reach out to your audience with. To gain a reputation, whether through publishing it on your own blog, or submitting to magazines or just to other blogs as guest posts.
Tomorrow, for Sample Sunday, I'm going to publish something I pulled out of my trunk -- a mini-romance crime story that I wrote when I was trying to break into Women's World. The story is called "Balancing Act" about an awkward woman, a hot guy and a stolen ring.