Monday, December 20, 2010

Dec Dare Day 16 - 602 Words and the Value of Old Stories

Today's Progress - 602 Words on Harsh Climate, and a short story submission.
Running Total - 15639

15639 / 30000 words. 52% done!

My cold is now flirting with bronchitis, but so far it's still mainly a bad cough.

I said I was going to talk about productivity. Well, I realized that the first rule of productivity is to leverage any work you've already done.

Today some of the discussions we were having on Dean Wesley Smith's blog (in the comments on the post about goals) sent me to look one more time at my portfolio of old short fiction. So far I've mainly been looking at previously published fiction, and a few other stories that fit really closely with those.

But today I looked into my "on hold" folder; the stories I had completed but hadn't got around to marketing yet. Now way back in the eighties and nineties, I had a problem. I was a mystery writer who was trained by sf writers. So I wrote a bunch of odd fantasy stories, but my taste in such stories is what you might call "fun but unsophisticated." Unfortunately for me, sophistication was in at that time. So I wrote children's stories mostly (or disguised my fantasy as children's stories).

But I had a bunch of stories that I had abandoned for no good reason. I found several today and realized that these were not any less sophisticated than I read in the top magazines today. I think I left them behind because I had finally moved on to writing mysteries and screenplays. I just forgot them.

What's really funny is that one of the folk tales in The Enchanted Tree is about some stories which were abandoned and they went bad (like "evil overlord" bad). My real stories, however, just waited patiently. They did not rot or grew putrid, and it does not appear that they've been plotting against me. One of them was actually very close to ready to be submitted to a market.

So I polished and submitted it to a pro market that is known to respond quickly. Yes, I'd like to publish it myself, but you only get one shot at first rights, and publishing in a real magazine is great promotion for your other work. So I can always reprint it into an ebook later. (Plus it has a good tie in to one of the novels I haven't published yet.)

Sometimes old stories don't go bad. Sometimes they are like fine wine or cheese, and they mellow, or ripen, and wait for just the right moment to propel you right along. Knowing how or when to take advantage of these caches - whether they be fully formed stories, or just interesting ideas - is one of the basic secrets to productivity.

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