Monday, September 29, 2008

Bring out yer dead!

Do you ever start writing a piece only to find that it goes nowhere? I have files full of these. A well-published writer friend wisely advised me to keep every scrap, because you never know what form it will take later. In fact, my very first published short story was based on something I had begun a decade before and discarded. An editor asked me for a submission, and I panicked until I remembered that file. There was a begun-but-never-finished tale, ready to go. I shined it up just for her, she loved it, and I felt like a cheater until I pondered that -- uh -- it was all my work, just at different times in life.

Now here's a fun Monday morning literary challenge if you're up for it. Go back and find the oldest, most forgotten bit that you began and never finished. If there are many years between you now and you then, it should be sufficiently settled not to feel like unfinished work (with the attendant guilt), and simply seem like words. My challenge to you is to think about where it might work, finish it with an eye toward guiding it to that place, and then submit it it there.

Endings are some of the most challenging parts of a piece to write, second only to beginnings in difficulty (at least for me). What I like to do is come up with a wonderful ending and then write toward that rather than starting a piece to see where it leads. I stole this idea from Truman Capote, who once claimed it was the only way he could work.

PS: I'm working on a book now based on an idea from 18 (count 'em) 18 years ago, and it's happening! Time is no-time. Bring out yer dead...

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