How many jotted-upon cocktail napkins rot in landfills here (Oklahoma City) and there (Lexington, Prague, and Znojmo, Czech Republic), because of my prodigious career as a beginner of stories?
No idea. A lot.
Oh, it was more than just the napkins. Starting around 1993, the story ideas, essays on theme, character sketches and occasional bad sonnets filled upwards of 300 spiral notebooks, legal tablets and yeah, a few of those twelve-dollar notebooks they sell at the chain bookstores, the ones you buy because their earthy brown is so on-trend and hey, if it’s good enough for Hemingway…
Then came 2007. A document bubbled up to the surface of the My Documents folder where it had been imprisoned, forgotten and alone, condemned to rot in some dark subfolder of a subfolder of a subfolder. I was looking for something else, but this is what I found. Notes. For a book.
And they were good. But where did they come from?
Oh yeah, I remembered. Three years earlier, I’d done National Novel Writing Month (maybe the most beneficial creative exercise I’ve ever done). While immersed in the frantic hammering-out of my 50k-word bad novel, excerpts of which you will never read anywhere, an unrelated-to-project idea popped up and wouldn’t quit pestering me until I gave it some attention. So I opened up a fresh Word doc, dashed off some notes, and then forgot about it.
And now, here it was. How could I have forgotten such a terrific story? All I could recall was that it seemed like a pretty lame idea at the time, and that nobody would ever want to read about it.
What I didn’t know then: Like French wine and fine cheese, some prose gets better with age. That if you write passionately of a new idea, an intriguing character, or a theme that excites you, then decide it’s all a pile of crap, close out the document and forget about it for a while, strange things can happen.
There, in the depths of that dark drawer to which you’ve condemned it (or the electronic equivalent thereof) it can transform into something bril—well, if not brilliant, at least meritorious of further exploration. Maybe even awesome.
There are people who will tell you that’s impossible. Never listen to those people.
Always, always, always believe in magic.
Continue to Part Two