When I was in college, back in 1998, I took a Creative Writing course where I wrote two horribly-written short stories and some really bad poems. The stories were called The Hideout and The Attic. Apparently, I wasn’t very creative with titles back then.
To this day, I don’t know why I didn’t toss those papers in the trash the moment the semester ended. But not only did those pages make the trip back home with me, they managed to survive a couple decades in a bin with so many of my other failed writing attempts.
About eight years ago, (damn time flies) I pulled out that dusty bin and went through those old writings. It had been a while since I’d written at that time and I wanted to get back into it. After all, being a writer was always my dream. Life, with all of its distractions, had pulled me off course for a little while, but I found my way back to it, and I thought past writings was a good place to start.
Turns out, I was right.
Even though those old stories were really bad, as I read through them I found a storyline in each I could build on. I turned The Hideout into a novel called A Penny on the Tracks that was published in 2017. It’s an LGBTQ coming-of-age story about friendship, loyalty, and the struggles of coming out. The story revolves around two best friends, Lyssa and Abbey, who discover a hideout near some train tracks and spend the summer before sixth grade hanging out and finding freedom from issues at home. But their innocence shatters when the hideout becomes the scene of a tragic death.
As for the other story, The Attic. Well, that one went through many rewrites with two major plot changes, taking me two extra years to write. It was frustrating and many times I wanted to give up, move on to another story, but I kept writing until I got the story right. Not only have I finally finished the story, but I got it contracted. The name of the book is Annabel and the Boy in the Window. I’m unable to put into words the relief I feel in finally being able to put that story to rest.
I am now in the process of revising what was my first attempt at writing a full-length novel that I wrote shortly after I graduated from college. I ended up finishing it, but as with the short stories, the writing was horrible.
So in the bin those pages went. Then a couple years back, I fished the pages out of the bin and just like with the short stories, I’d found a storyline I could work with. I’m hoping to be finished with the story by next summer. After that, I have two more previous attempts at novels I need to take a look at and see if there’s a storyline in them I can work with.
Despite having a drawer full of new story ideas, I can’t leave my old stories behind. They’re taking up too much space in my head and I need them gone before I can fully concentrate on anything new.
If you’re a writer, do you keep old stories? How do you decide which ones can be salvaged and which ones to let go? I’ve realized it’s not just old stories I have a hard time letting go. Past relationships, old friendships, cherished memories from a time that can never be lived again, all have a hold on me.
It’s hard to move on, isn’t it?