Thursday, May 21, 2009

Recycling Old Stories

Well, it was my turn this week, and I have to say my mind feels melted, after re-watching the Lost Season 5 finale, finishing a Peanuts Biography, and witnessing my beloved Cleveland Cavaliers fall for the first time in the NBA playoffs in ridiculously dramatic fashion. (shakes fist! Damn you, Orlando!)

So basically…I’m exhausted, and I thought, boy, wouldn’t it be nice to have something I could just cut and paste? And that’s when I had an idea that might be helpful to you. I realized that, out of the 5 magazines my work has appeared, 4 of them are because I cut and pasted a section from a long-ago crappy novel.

Like a lot of writers (I think) I have several unpublishable novels locked up. But what I’ve been able to do is pull the good stuff out, (usually a short story or a flash fiction piece) slap on a new beginning and end, and voila! New story. Even better than that, if that newly manipulated short story does get published, when you send out that same novel it came from (if you still have hope it can be published) you can say in your query…

An excerpt of this novel has appeared in DudeYouTotallyRock Literary Review. Or something like that.

So…if you’re looking for a new way to market your stuff, but don’t have the energy or time to create something beautifully new and powerful, look back on the history of material you’ve created. You just might have something there that just needs plucked out of that 1,083 page book.

Has anyone else had any luck doing this? Or if you just want to vent about Lost or the Cleveland Cavaliers, I’d be happy to listen, cause I’m going nuts over here. =).


  1. But did you like the season finale of LOST?

    Love this idea. Was just telling a blogging friend yesterday I think my novels in "time out" will potentially turn into short stories. I'm still trying to find more places to send my short stories though. Thoughts on this?
    ~ Wendy

  2. Wendy, try Duotrope and Ralan.

    Patrick - great idea, I may just have to troll through my old folders and see what I can find :)

  3. I just recently did this with a rewrite of a manuscript that had been languishing on the portable hard drive for years. I took the best of the original manuscript and reworked the story. I like the new version much better than I ever liked the old version.

  4. I've certainly got a crappy novel sitting in the drawer. There are some bits of it that I quite like, most is pretty bad. I've been slowly coming to the conclusion that I need to accept that as a practice novel, and move on. I was thinking of recycling the good bits in later novels, but recrafting them as short stories is a good idea.

  5. great trick! and you know what? the piece that I picked out to become its own short story actually became its own novel. (the one i'm reticent in talking about because ...doesn't the entire thing just seem silly?)

    But you're right: it's taking the best of us and getting it out there. And maybe, just maybe, simply being able to identify the best allows us to write to that standard more often. Maybe :)

  6. Hey Wendy...yeah, the Lost finale blew my mind, and although I enjoy it ten times more than other TV shows, I have to say I'm a little worried with how they are manipulating Locke's character. He's my hero on that show, and if he doesn't get a happy ending I'm going to blow up my television...or just be really sad.

    And yeah, Duotrope is great, Wendy. That's what I use. Plus, New Pages has a large list of places too.

    It's great to see that this idea might help. And no, Alex, it doesn't seem silly. You talk about it when you want to talk about it...if that's what you were meaning. Plenty of writers made it a law in their mind to not discuss what they are working on until they complete it. Kind of like keeping a lid on a boiling pot, or something like that.

  7. I don't talk about anything that I am working on until nearly the end. If I do, I feel like it saps some of the energy I feel about it. It's almost like I'm bored with it after I have talked about it a few times.

    I find the same thing with revision. I have to literally put the book away for a while before I can look at it again, or no matter how good it is, I'm still bored with it.

    I like the idea of recycling old stories. I may just do that. I have a thriller spinning on my hard drive that has a a number of cool stories, but I haven't sold the entire thing yet. A couple of the stories might be interesting.

  8. Your strategy, which you mentioned in our writing group, made me take a closer look at where potential short stories might be in the novel. I grabbed a short chapter and sent it into the PNWA contest under the short story category. We will see if I had any luck with that.

    As far as Lost goes, I've liked many of the episodes that led up to the finale, but the thing with Locke didn't sit that well with me. I felt tricked in a way that I was not happy with. But, I will come back for more next year.

    The one part that I loved was the comment by the older couple that was hiding from everybody: You people are always in a hurry, shooting each other and blowing things up. Sure you don't want a cup of tea first?

  9. I am still upset about Lebron and the Cavaliers... and what is it now, almost a month after they lost?

    I've written maybe five or six short stories and one (and a half) novels. None have been published and I think I am just overwhelmed with the idea of trying to publish anything. I just don't know where to begin!


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