I started a brand new Haxan short story yesterday called “Talitha Koum” and so far I am making decent progress. It’s taking time, but the story is shaping up and I am beginning to see what it is really about.
It’s funny. I was looking through some old files and saw the notes and stuff for this story. I had forgotten I had this lying around! I think this is a good example of something I do which I urge other writers to do.
When you are finished with a story, or when it is not working for you, put it aside, forget about it, and move on to the next story.
This is something I am really good at. Maybe to my own detriment. If you pressed me to name all the stories I have published I probably couldn’t do it.* I know I couldn’t name all the stories I have written, both published and non-published. I was in a superb writing group in Mississippi and the members knew I had this policy to forget a story and put it away and always move on to the next one. One of the members asked me about one of my old stories he had read and I couldn’t remember the name of the story!
I wrote it, and I couldn’t remember it at all! He laughed and said, “It really is true, you don’t bother to remember what you did. You are always looking ahead.”
That has always been my philosophy when it comes to writing. When you finish a story you are finished. Why should you dwell on that when there are new stories waiting to be written?
This has gotten me into trouble a time or two. Sometimes at conventions an editor or writer will ask a general question about my work and I’ll stand there with a dumb and vacant look on my face. Oh, well, I’m not going to change. This old dog isn’t willing to learn that trick. I really do believe a writer always needs to be looking ahead and not obsessing over the past.
On the other hand there are stories that have been with me for decades. Usually these are stories I have had trouble writing but haven’t entirely given up on. We all have stories like that, I think. I don’t know. Maybe it depends on the person. I know I am very lucky as a writer and have had more stories published than I ever expected. I am not done yet, however. I am very grateful for the stories I have published…but it’s the stories I have not been able to work, or the stories that didn’t work, or the stories that didn’t come together that stick with me more.
I know, it’s crazy. I’m a crazy writer. But this time my philosophy of forgetting stories worked out rather well when I found the notes for it. It was like a brand new idea, and because so much time has passed I am able to look at it with entirely fresh eyes.
So that’s what I am working on right now, a couple of short stories. I still plan to delve into the Great American Hobo novel this summer. I am looking forward to that!