I was looking in my documents to take a peek at old work I’d abandoned. I’m not really sure why; perhaps to find inspiration, or just to take inventory. There are a number of stories there that never made it past a few pages, waiting for more inspiration, and a few that made it further but never developed a good enough direction.
One story I think is promising tells of a man at war with his old house, furiously renovating every time it wrongs him and living in an addition, with his housekeeper maintaining an uneasy truce. A TV show comes by to feature the house in their show. It didn’t get much further than some character introductions, but the idea has legs. I had forgotten about it until I found it again.
There’s a story about a man who finds himself walking under the stars in the dark, for hours on end, with no knowledge of how he got there but the very real sense that he is no longer strictly alive. He happens on another man at a campfire, and both sense that something is out there, stalking them. I wasn’t sure what to do with that one.
A story called That Which Separates is in the folder, an unfinished short story about a team investigating an alien site that diverges from what they know about that race. Something about the concept never quite sat right with me, and it needs a rewrite.
There are several abandoned beginnings to the same story, where I basically wrote the same scene a number of times because the imagery was powerful but there was no real plot to go with it. The scene was almost all atmosphere, and any attempt to go beyond that always collapsed. When I wrote The Affix last year, I borrowed that opening scene and the character Liz (the protagonist’s stalker ex-girlfriend), and combined that with the concept of the Affix itself from a different story—which I believe I have since deleted—where the object was just a hunk of glass-like stone and not in the form of a gemstone. Those old beginnings should probably go; they have no more value.
I found another story that looks like maybe it’s some kind of weird afterlife thing, but it’s terrible. It rambles and makes no sense. I’m not sure where I was ever going with it. It has a title, and that sucks too.
Then there’s the space smuggler idea I had. Probably several versions of that exist; none of them are quite up to snuff. I’m certain this will evolve into a real story someday.
The most recent unfinished document is a fantasy story, or book, I had started a few weeks ago about a young journeyman spellbinder who joins a quest that involves a dragon’s hoard. I had some ideas for it, but the opening is incredibly weak. In spite of that, I have a better sense of where this story would go than most, and as such it would have been a good candidate for NaNoWriMo.
None of this is counting a number of short stories I’ve already written and consider finished, though I might decide to rewrite them. I’ve already mentioned the novella Below, a roguelike fantasy story. It, and other stories, were already assembled into book form but I never went through with publishing them. I think I made the right choice, but they might be worth revisiting. The story EI is a great concept that just needs some kind of plot. No One Here By That Name was an experiment in present-tense writing that follows a man who mysteriously recovers from having his personality wiped clean (as a form of capital punishment for cowards); some parts of it work but most don’t. Gray Area pits an escaped abductee against his captors in a no-holds-barred killing spree; it might work better expanded out from the short story format. Algorithm is about a supposed mathematical impossibility made real, that could bring down the information age, and one man’s dilemma of how to handle it. And there’s The Maze and its three sequels, which may have the most surreal vibe of any of the stories but probably need a lot of work.
The main thing I’ve discovered is that as my writing has improved, it throws the inexperience of my older efforts into sharp relief. It’s not so much about the wording per se, but there’s a sort of immaturity that shows through at times. Some of those short stories fared better than others, and might do fine with just some padding out so they don’t feel so rushed, but the more I see of the old stuff the more I cringe at it.
If I ever do want to go on a rewriting binge, the good news is I’ll have plenty of material to work with.