Send it to the trunk?

I’ve been warned before, by professional voices I trust: never, ever send anything to the trunk — the graveyard where stories go to die.

It’s unprofessional. It doesn’t give your story a chance. You never know whether or not the story might sell, even if it’s been rejected 10 or 20 or 50 times. The next market might be the one. Keep sending the story out.

But what do you do with a story which even you have lost faith in?

Lately I’ve been looking at a lot of my stories which have made the rounds, and which are teetering on the edge of being trunked. All of them have problems. None of these problems can be addressed without a complete re-draft, wherein I tear the story down to basic components and build it back up again from scratch. I’m not the same writer I was even 12 months ago. I can see what’s wrong, and I know how much work it will take to fix things.

So I’m in a bit of a conundrum, because the same pros whose opinions I trust, also advise against endlessly reinventing the wheel. Avoid excessive editing and re-writes. Move forward. Dig new holes in fresh soil.

Today I pulled three of my older irons out of the fire. One of them I was able to send to a new market because I think it might have a shot. The other two… Eh. They’ve got issues even I’m not willing to ignore anymore. I think I pretty much have to trunk them — at least until I get the time and inspiration to pull them back out, burn them down to their bones, and begin whole new stories using their ashes.

So, my Race score has dropped to 15.

Which is still pretty good. Just not at 20 yet, which is my goal for short production, prior to launching into a novel project.

There is also the matter of my being gone for two weeks and two days with the Army next month. Can I crank out 5 new stories in 3 weeks? It would be great to head off for WOCS Phase III with 20 points.

Yeah, yeah, I like this goal. Better get cracking!


4 thoughts on “Send it to the trunk?

  1. It’s one thing for a pro who has been selling for two decades or so to never trunk a story, it’s another for a young writer who is looking at stories he wrote when his bathtub (remember the bathtub?) was still pretty empty.

    I have a few trunk stories I know are hopeless. They’ll stay trunked. (One wasn’t that bad but was time-sensitive, and the time has passed. I put it up on my web site.) At least one I thought was bad got better critiques than I was expecting, so I redrafted parts and it’s making the rounds. (Earned me an HM at WotF and with a revision, a personal rejection from one of the digests; it’s still out.)

    I think the test is “would you be ashamed to see this in print with your name on it?” If the answer is “no”, keep sending it out. If “yes”, then you know you can do better — so go do that.

    (My current race score is only 7. My latest (not yet subbed) story, supposed to be about 5K words, blew up to almost 11K, and I’m also polishing a novel. However, I’ve found another local writer – who just made his first SFWA-qualifying sale – who is interested in The Bet. We meet each week for lunch and if one of us hasn’t submitted a new story that week they pay for the other’s meal.)

  2. That’s a great point, Alastair. And the honest answer, for the two I trunked today was, yes, I think I might be ashamed of these two if they ever saw print. Back when I wrote them I thought they were the best I could do, but one of them is over a year old now, and the other is several years old. They’ve got problems, and if they did sell in their current incarnations, I might feel sheepish about having my name attached to them.

    BTW, I envy you having a close-to-home writing lunch buddy like that. There are a lot of pro and soon-to-be-pro writers in Utah, just not that many who are close enough to me that I can do the lunch thing on a routine basis.

    Good for your lunch buddy having cracked the digests! Which one was it?

  3. It wasn’t even one of the digests, it was a Denver-area magazine (“303”) that I wouldn’t have thought of as publishing fiction, but he sold them a “magical realism” story with local flavor (great story, reads a bit like Ray Bradbury) for a better word rate than the digests. Between that and their circulation, SFWA agreed that it qualified, and he’s now an associate member. (His name’s Lou Berger.)

    Which goes to show that we should pay more attention to other possible markets.

  4. Wow, Dean Smith would be proud of that sale. Just the kind of thing he’s always telling us to do: hunt for markets outside the genre ‘box.’

    I do need to do that more. A lot more.

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