The gold in old manuscripts
Those of us who aren’t poets occasionally think up interesting couplets and quatrains that never go anywhere because the rest of the poem never comes together. Maybe professional poets also have this problem.
What’s more likely for novelists is writing about a wonderful character or an exciting event in novel manuscript that never gels as a whole. Perhaps we write the entire novel, but see that it doesn’t quite work. Unlike the couplet that comes out of the blue without a poem to go with it, the pure gold scenes in unfinished or unsubmitted novels might not have originally caught our attention when we viewed them as part of a larger work.
Old manuscripts gather dust if we printed them out or were often saved in earlier versions of Word and filed away in an archive with a directory (folder) name like “OldStuff” or “Archive.”
If you’re in between major projects–or stuck in your current work in progress–reading through those old manuscripts might be the jolt you need to throw off your temporary writer’s block; or just maybe one of your favorite scenes with a memorable character can be pulled out of the “OldStuff” bin and turned into a short story.
Odds are, the scene will require rewriting so that it stands on its own as a short story with a beginning, middle and end rather than being a wandering slice of life that disappoints readers. Your options are unlimited because the scene you choose no longer has to fit into the novel you extract it from.
I’m thinking of this idea because I have some older books that are out of print that include a few scenes I happen to like a lot. Fixing them up was a lot more fun than I expected. Characters I liked when I wrote the original, suddenly emerged more fully formed in the revision. If they were evil, they became really evil in the short story. Or, if they were funny, they turned into first class hoots.
We often waste time trying to resurrect old novels that we already know are hopeless messes–good practice works, perhaps. But when we find a scene we can upload as a great Kindle short story, it’s like going into an abandoned mine and finding a shining nugget that got overlooked the last time anyone was there.
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